Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo

About Olivia Rodrigo

A few weeks after Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” became the biggest song in the world, Saturday Night Live ran a sketch that featured a bunch of middle-aged guys shooting pool in a dive bar. One puts “drivers license” on the jukebox. Another complains that it just sounds like a teenage girl sitting alone at a piano. By the end of their discourse, they’re all in tears, singing along. “I was driving around my neighborhood listening to really sad songs, like, crying in the car,” Rodrigo told Apple Music. “And I got home and I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll write a song about this: crying in the car.’” Rodrigo had tapped into a universal experience: The middle-aged guys weren’t teenage girls, but they’d also driven around listening to sad songs.

Rodrigo was just 17 when the song came out, but she had been getting ready for years. Born in Temecula, California, in 2003, she started lessons in piano, voice, and acting as a child, and went on to star in Disney+’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. But, really, what could prepare you for breaking the global single-week streaming record for a female artist? Especially on your first single? And getting a nod from Taylor Swift in the meantime? (Along with “drivers license” winning the Apple Music Award for Top Song of the Year in 2021, Rodrigo’s debut LP, SOUR, was the Top Album of the Year and Rodrigo herself was named Breakthrough Artist of the Year.)

Like Swift—and Lorde, too—Rodrigo has a knack for conjuring big feelings through small details: an ex singing along to their Billy Joel with his new love (“deja vu”), reading his self-help books “so you’d think that I was smart” (“enough for you”). Her content is all-caps, but her delivery is lowercase, lacing bedroom pop with a vulnerability and anger rare for teen pop: “Where’s my fucking teenage dream?” she wonders on “brutal.” “I’m the biggest emo drama queen,” Rodrigo tells Apple Music. Maybe. But the key to letting it out is keeping it together.

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