by Emily Duvall
As a devout fan of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and also of the cast members themselves, I eagerly awaited Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single, drivers license (stylized in all lowercase), on Fri., Jan. 8. Seventeen-year-old Rodrigo plays Nini Salazar-Roberts in the Disney+ series and wrote original songs All I Want for the show, in addition to Just For a Moment alongside co-star Joshua Bassett. Rodrigo is planning to release her debut EP this year, as she has alluded to the release in multiple interviews. She consistently posts original songs on her Instagram, and she hopes to continue writing as much as she can in the future.
The song begins with sounds of a car starting up, picking up and fading into an up-tempo, yet mellow, pulsing piano beat. Once the chorus comes in, the somber melodies from the piano compliment Rodrigo’s heart-wrenching lyrics. The tempo rises to accompany the growth in sound of Rodrigo’s voice, encapsulating the emotion and feeling from the song. drivers license is a track many people can relate to, circulating around topics of heartbreak, hurt, and love. In Rodrigo’s Instagram Live leading up to the song’s premiere, she revealed that the car sounds in the beginning of the song are actually voice memos she recorded of her mom’s car in her home driveway.
Rodrigo began promoting her debut single via her Instagram and TikTok by sharing snippets of the song with captions saying “soon” and “sooner.” She first shared this heartfelt song with her followers on Instagram on Jul. 23, 2020, with the caption reading, “wrote dis the other day. [very very] close to my heart. gonna call it drivers license I think lol.”
On Jan. 4, Rodrigo officially announced the song would be released on Fri. Jan. 8. Before the 9:00PM PST release time of the song and music video on Thurs., Jan. 7., she held a 30 minute livestream on YouTube where she answered all sorts of questions from fans around the world. After the music video and song debuted on YouTube, she went straight to Instagram Live to share her excitement and gratitude, to have her friends and co-stars on the live, and to talk more about the song itself. On Sat. Jan. 9, the day after the initial release, drivers license held the top spot on the iTunes Top Songs Chart. On Mon. Jan. 11, drivers license became the number one song in the world across numerous streaming platforms.
Although nothing is confirmed, many speculate that this song is about her HSMTMTS co-star, Joshua Bassett. Many fans believe Rodrigo and Bassett dated, and that the timeline was around mid 2019 when they were filming season one of HSMTMTS, until around June of 2020. Rumors began circulating in summer of 2020 that Joshua Bassett started dating 21 year-old Sabrina Carpenter, right after when people were guessing Rodrigo and Bassett allegedly split. Fans are guessing that many of Rodrigo’s lyrics in the song correlate to Bassett, as well as his possible relations with Carpenter. Such lyrics include, “You’re probably with that blonde girl,” “She’s so much older than me,” “I guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me,” and “I got my driver’s licence last week, something we always talked about.” In interviews from 2020 — prior to the writing of drivers license — with Bassett, Rodrigo, and other cast members, Rodrigo revealed that Bassett taught her how to drive and that she drove for the first time with him. In addition, Rodrigo is currently 17, while Carpenter is 21 years old (and blonde), which could possibly connect to her lyrics. But, none of the stars have touched on any of the speculations and have not confirmed anything.
All in all, this song is a masterpiece that I have fallen in love with, and I have been playing it on repeat since it was released. Rodrigo puts immense emotion and heart into her lyrics, making it such a beautiful song that is already topping charts. I highly recommend listening to her new single, and watch for her EP soon, as well as HSMTMTS season two.
Photo courtesy Olivia Rodrigo on Instagram