“drivers license”: Navigating the hit single


Courtesy of Natalie Cass (Disney+)

Olivia Rodrigo, Matt Cornett and Julie Lester in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”

The general public agrees, Olivia Rodrigo’s hit single “drivers license” is exactly what we needed. From Disney Channel to number one on Spotify Music, Apple Music and Amazon Music’s song charts within hours, Rodrigo has most definitely gotten the public’s attention. While some believe “drivers license” is her big debut, that’s not exactly the case. 

At age 12, Rodrigo played Grace Thomas in “An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success.” This role led to her signing with Disney Channel as Paige Olvera in “Bizaardvark” from 2016 to 2019. From there, after casting an episode on Fox’s “New Girl,” Rodrigo starred in the TV show “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” starting in 2019 until present. With this role, Roderigo entered the public eye. She contributed the song “All I Want” to the soundtrack of the show as well, a song that captures the tricky nature of high school romance.

In the time between the first and second seasons of the show, Roderigo released the record-breaking “drivers license.” Despite her musical success, Rodrigo still plans to act and will continue to star in the new season of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” However, as she develops into a more mature musician many speculate she will leave the show to focus on her music, especially given her tumultuous onscreen romance with her co-star (and ex-boyfriend) Joshua Bassett, who plays her character’s love interest, Ricky. 

The release of “drivers license” led to a firestorm of drama and rumors about a love triangle between Rodrigo, Bassett and “that blonde girl” who many suspect is Disney Channel alumna Sabrina Carpenter. With growing drama, Rodrigo may walk out on the Disney+ TV show as Bassett stars in that as well. Time will tell if she will focus on her singing career, or ignore the rumors and drama to keep acting.

For the sake of music, I hope Roderigo focuses on her songwriting and performance. The main reason why “drivers license” is so popular is because of how revealing it is. As we all know, teenagers today don’t exactly pour their hearts out to the whole world as Roderigo did in her song. Yet the personal story painted in this song was one of utter relation. In her short song, Roderigo put into words how every teen has felt at some point in time. Even if you don’t identify with what Rodrigo is singing, the indie-pop-chill-sound that is so popular right now is addicting. Roderigo’s deeply personal lyrics, like,  “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,” go beyond the guilt and embarrassing feelings to reach the heartfelt and personal message of a song that so many love.

The way she starts the song–slow, quiet and personal–with loud belting at the end isn’t a new phenomenon, but the way that she goes back and forth between loud and quiet throughout the song makes it so much more personal because it mirrors how emotions work. When some people are going through a breakup, they don’t really know what to think and how to feel because it keeps changing from moment to moment. One day they’re quiet and just sad and then the next you get loud and angry and don’t know what to do with all the emotion, and this song incorporates that perfectly and seamlessly.

Another reason so many love this song is the uncommon, yet exceptional symbolism and dual story within the song. A boy who broke up with a girl he claimed he loved isn’t that new of an idea; it’s the idea of driving alone and the life after the breakup that isn’t as familiar. The line “Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street” is just a kick in the gut for anyone listening, no matter how many times you hit replay.

From the days of American Girl Doll to the brave young woman Olivia Roderigo has become,  she has shown that she is ready for more and will achieve as an authentic version of herself. Rodrigo is building a solid career for herself and has shown the public that she is ready for the world. So look out, she is revving her engines and is not slowing down anytime soon as “drivers license” is just the beginning.

The Parkway West Pathfinder gives “drivers license” 8.5 out of 10 stars.