On January 8th, Olivia Rodrigo released her debut single Drivers License and it took the world by storm, breaking and setting new records. Upon its release, the song topped, the Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music charts, going on to break the record for the biggest first-week streams for a song in Spotify and Amazon music history. It also became the most requested song on a single day in Alexa. Within its first week release, Drivers License topped both the UK and US Charts and several other international charts as well.
The phenomenal success of the song put the Disney star, Olivia Rodrigo, into the realms of pop royalty. And mind you, Rodrigo is only seventeen, making her the first most recently born artist to top the Hot 100 Charts. Even though many interpretations of the song has been made by media and listeners alike, I would like to think of this song as an expression of Rodrigo’s raw emotions and of course a display of her incredible pipes.
The music video begins with Rodrigo driving through a suburban road during the night. She sings that she got her driver’s license last week, a rite of passage for any teenager/adult. However, for her, the driver’s license is also closely associated with her ex-boyfriend as it was something they were excited about because she can finally drive up to his house – something she cannot do now as they are broken up. Rodrigo then talks about her insecurities and speculates that he must “with that blond girl/Who always made me doubt”. She then ends the Verse 2, expressing her heartbreak through the lyrics, “Yeah, today I drove through the suburbs/’Cause how could I ever love someone else?”. Her broken and lonely feeling is epitomised in the chorus part of the song, especially when she says, “And I just can’t imagine/How you could be so okay now that I’m gone/Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me/’Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street”.
Through the lyrics, she succeeds in conveying her emotions after a break-up, where she is still in love with an ex-boyfriend who has already moved on. However, instead of being a song about someone still obsessed over their ex that borders on toxicity, it rather has a cathartic quality to it – a manifestation of someone’s innermost feeling in their road to acceptance. The song is confessional and specific to an extent that it is personal but general to an extent that it is relatable to everyone who has gone through that phase of teenage love and heartbreak. The lyrics are literal and not at all sugarcoated, giving off an authentic feeling to it that resonates highly with the present generation.
Olivia Rodrigo co-wrote the song with its producer Dan Nigro. There aren’t any heavy instrumentals and in true ballad fashion, most of the work is done by Rodrigo’s silky vocals, that has a comforting quality to it. The music is mostly provided by the piano beginning with quiet notes, slightly building up in the chorus and then becoming quiet again as Rodrigo’s soft vocals fills our ears as she sings the last line of the chorus. The beats from Verse 3 is also an indication of the incoming bridge of the song. Probably, the best part of the song, the Bridge, has a choir-like anthemic feeling to it, where we can clearly hear Lorde’s influence. The whole song and its music give off an Indie-Suburban movie aura like Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. The music video is shot in a vintage filter giving off Tumblr aesthetic vibes. It aimed for the ‘aesthetic’ and achieved it.
The song isn’t experimental, overly produced or expensively shot. It is simple and normal, or in other words, it is nothing new, and we love it. It reminds us of the music of 2010s. However, the song succeeds in being current while simultaneously being nostalgic. You can’t help but love and relate to the song, and after an especially difficult year, the normality of emotions expressed in this song is almost desired. The song has indeed become one of a global heartbreak.