To mark the start of a new year, 17-year-old singer and actress Olivia Rodrigo released her first single “driver’s license” on Jan. 8, serving as the lead track off her upcoming debut EP.
After teasing the song in various snippets throughout 2020, Rodrigo’s experience of heartbreak and despair has garnered over 28 million streams and has been number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for five weeks.
“driver’s license” has rapidly claimed its title as a heartbreak ballad for the next generation. Rodrigo’s songwriting style has been compared to similar elements from Lorde’s “Melodrama” (2017) and Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” (2008), reminiscent of a lost love and newfound solitude.
Much of the single’s success can be attributed to the rise of “bedroom pop,” a DIY process that can produce studio-sounding quality from the comfort of an artist’s home. Rodrigo’s experimentation with this style, combining minimalist instrumentation with a traditional subject matter, has initiated an empathetic response from a young audience.
While the message of a stereotypical failed teenage romance is evident, Rodrigo’s single has since unveiled a greater story beneath the surface.
While portraying Nini Salazar-Roberts in Disney Plus’ “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” fans began to speculate that a relationship between her and co-star Joshua Bassett was on the rise. The two had written a track for the series, “Just for a Moment,” portraying a modern romance between a boy and girl, likely inspired by off-screen events.
Upon the release of “driver’s license,” fans who closely followed the alleged relationship began to connect Rodrigo’s heartbreak to a breakup between her and Bassett. Many of her lyrics contribute to the rumor, as she sings “I know we weren’t perfect but I’ve never felt this way for no one…Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me….”
On the same day of her debut, Bassett announced a new single “Lie, Lie, Lie” to be released nearly a week after Rodrigo’s. Bassett’s lyrics detail agitation with a “friend” playing the victim, lying about him to the world behind his back. With the announcement published so abruptly after Rodrigo’s release, a blatant attack on her #1 hit sent social media users into a frenzy.
To add fuel to the fire, a potential love triangle has ensued between the two and 21-year-old actress and singer Sabrina Carpenter. After Carpenter and Bassett were spotted together in June 2020 at a Black Lives Matter protest, rumors of a new relationship began to circulate. Likewise, Carpenter has recently announced a collaboration with Bassett in a duet entitled “We Both Know.”
After reviewing the lyrics to “driver’s license” with knowledge of its origins, the single contains a clear reference to Carpenter with Rodrigo singing “And you’re probably with that blonde girl, who always made me doubt / She’s so much older than me, she’s everything I’m insecure about.” Rodrigo had changed the lyric from “brunette” to “blonde” since the release of her 2020 teaser track to the single.
Similar to Bassett, Carpenter released her single “Skin” on Jan. 22, the first from her upcoming fifth studio album. While Bassett didn’t have a direct call-out to Rodrigo in his track, Carpenter sings her response “Maybe you didn’t mean it, maybe blonde was the only rhyme.”
While neither artist has confirmed or denied any rumors, fans continue to piece together new information as chaos ensues.
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