By: Elise Thompson
Photo by: Walt Disney Television
It is hard to come across someone who hasn’t heard the song, “Driver's License,” by Olivia Rodrigo. Since its recent release on January 8th, this heartbreak song has taken off across various social media and music streaming platforms. This debut single has somehow managed to work its way into the hearts of many, breaking records along the way, all in a very short period of time.
Prior to the release of the single, Rodrigo started her career as an actress in 2015 in An American Girl: Grace Stirs up Success, as the lead role of Grace Thomas. In 2016, she then played Paige Olvera on the Disney Channel series, Bizaardvark. She also starred as Nini Salazar-Roberts on the Disney+ series Highschool Musical: The Musical: The Series. Rodrigo’s background in acting is what eventually led her to her passion for singing and songwriting. In fact, she actually learned how to play the guitar from her role on Bizaardvark, where she played the role of a guitarist for three seasons. She also wrote the song, “All I Want,” for the soundtrack of Highschool Musical, as well as the song “Just for a Moment” which she wrote with Joshua Bassett, her co-star. Recently, in 2020, she signed with Geffen Records and Interscope, and released her debut single, “Drivers License.” Rodrigo, nor anyone involved in its release, expected the song to blow up as big as it did.
“Drivers License” broke the Spotify record for the highest number of daily streams ever for a non-holiday song… not once, but twice. On January 11th, just 3 days after the single’s release, the song was streamed more than 15.7 million times globally. On January 12th however, the song broke its own record with more than 17 million streams in just 1 day. However, the records it broke on Spotify alone don’t stop here. The song was streamed 65 million times in 1 week, therefore also breaking Spotify’s record for the highest number of global streams weekly. All these streams combined also broke the record for the fastest song on Spotify to reach over 100 million streams.
Aside from Spotify, Drivers License has reached number one on both Apple Music and Amazon Music on a global scale, and has become the most highly requested single on Alexa as well. Globally, the single is number 1 on Billboard Global with over 130 million streams.
So what truly fueled this single’s rise to fame? In reality, the song doesn’t have much instrumental depth or originality. It's very straightforward, and exhibits nothing new or innovative when it comes to musicality. Lyrically however, the song evokes universal emotions often associated with the vulnerability of heartbreak. Rodrigo’s lyrics are very literal, and encompass many themes. The overarching storyline of the song is simple: grievance over an ex that has moved on. However, fans across the globe have managed to pick apart Rodrigo’s lyrics piece by piece to discover an underlying love-triangle storyline. The song is allegedly in reference to Joshua Bassett, whom Rodrigo dated and broke up with not only in real life, but also while co-starring together on Highschool Musical. The third person in the triangle is Sabrina Carpenter, another co-star. In Driver’s License, Carpenter is referred to as “that blonde girl, who always made me doubt, She's so much older than me, She's everything I'm insecure about.” In reality, Carpenter is older than Rodrigo, blonde, and now dating Basset. Amid Rodrigo’s publicity rise, both Basset and Carpenter also released new songs, all of which tie together lyrically. For example, Carpenter’s new song “Skin” is about not letting an ex get in the way of a new relationship. Through the lines, “Maybe you didn't mean it, maybe blonde was the only rhyme,” Carpenter directly references lyrics in Driver’s License.
On the surface, this all may seem coincidental to fans. However, in reality, it has now become quite obvious that we all have been subject to a large planned publicity stunt, intended to boost the careers of those involved, which was in fact incredibly successful. The drama created by Rodrigo, Basset, and Carpenter is ultimately what led to “Driver’s License”’s unprecedented success, not necessarily the quality of the song itself. Regardless of whether or not the drama created was the reason for Rodrigo’s rise to fame is unimportant now, for this talented young songwriter is definitely someone to look out for in the future.