Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” Phenomenon

Andrew Doucette, Staff Writer

If you’ve been listening to the radio for the past month, you’ve most likely heard Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single, “Driver’s License” playing over and over and over. A couple of months ago, Olivia was one of the most popular Disney stars, including leading roles in “Bizaardvark” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” She has been transitioning into a musician, and with not much advertising outside of her social media feeds, she dropped “drivers license” on January 8th of this year, and within days, it had broken records. Three days after its release, it broke the record for most streams in one day on Spotify for a non-holiday song. The next day, it broke the record again with 17 million streams that day. It’s the first song since Drake’s “God’s Plan” to spend its first six weeks at number one on the Billboard charts. Even SNL recently did a sketch where grown men at a bar would shamefully belt out the song.

The song itself feels like a culmination of everything pop music is becoming. The song’s clear influence is Taylor Swift, which makes sense considering Olivia also calls Swift her biggest influence. The love-stricken subject matter, the songwriting, and the vocal performance sound like something out of an early Swift song. “Driver’s License” isn’t just a Swift homage but also takes note of what people like Lorde and Billie Eilish have been doing. Instead of this maximalist pop sound, the production is minimalistic throughout most of the track. Over the verses is only some light percussion, and piano and the only thing that’s different leading up to the chorus is just a traditional synth swell. Even the bridge, which is the biggest switchup of the song, doesn’t really have that much difference in the instrumentation, just a lot more vocal layers and a slightly different drum pattern.

This song single handedly turned Olivia Rodrigo from a big name in a small demographic, into a full-blown pop star, in a similar way compared to Billie Eilish and Selena Gomez before her. “Driver’s License” is getting her acclaim that’s up there with some of the best current day pop stars, including Rolling Stone calling it “an early contender for song of the year,” and all before she had turned 18. It’s creating an impossible task for Olivia with her upcoming EP, as the hype from fans is likely too high for her to match. There’s no telling what Olivia is going to do with this momentum or when its reign at number one will end, but this song brings a new voice into the pop atmosphere that combines every sound currently dominating the pop charts.