Olivia Rodrigo Essentials

Olivia Rodrigo Essentials

Olivia Rodrigo’s star began its ascent long before SOUR’s release in 2021: She grew up in Temecula, California, taking piano and voice lessons, and she drew on both her acting and musical chops in her first big gigs, the Disney Channel’s series Bizaardvark and then the leading role in Disney+’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Behind the scenes of her budding small-screen career, she wrote, wrote, and wrote some more—in her journals and at the piano, too. “I guess I’d been writing songs forever, like since I could talk, before I could actually write them down on paper,” she tells Apple Music. “But I learned how to play piano when I was nine, and so I started writing songs on piano then. That kind of made it like a real song, I suppose. I think songwriting’s always been my first love, and that’s the thing that I identify the most with and take the most seriously in my life.” By the time she went through a terrible breakup at 17, her notebook and piano were waiting for her. “drivers license”, her debut single, arrived 8 January 2021, and listeners immediately found themselves rapt in the passenger seat of her post-heartbreak journey. “drivers license” managed to telegraph exactly how Rodrigo felt while tapping into something bigger than her own hurt. When she sings of driving through familiar neighbourhoods and reminisces about the plans for the future she made with her ex before he moved on to the next girl, we feel the blinking signals and turns on our own familiar rides home, the accelerations past the memories too raw to revisit. And devastating though it may be, “drivers license” broke hearts and the charts at the same time: It was an immediate No. 1, and soon the world was sobbing along to Rodrigo’s not-so-inner monologue far from the familiar streets of her past. From “drivers license” to pop-punk kiss-off anthem “good 4 u” and the folk-tinged closer, “hope ur ok”, each track on SOUR touched on a different memory or emotion as she stitched her heart back together, verse by verse, earning her 2021 Apple Music Awards for Top Album, Top Song and Breakthrough Artist. Considering how trauma, grief, loss, fear, anger and uncertainty weighed heavily on the minds of, well, everyone in 2020 and 2021, it’s no wonder that Rodrigo’s words tapped into something universal and raw that resonated beyond her age group at exactly the right time. It didn’t matter if you were old enough to teach driver’s ed instead of taking it: Everyone could picture themselves sobbing in the car, screaming into a hairbrush in front of a mirror, or releasing the tension of a love gone bad with SOUR blasting through the speakers, and the catharsis that came from that was one she was eager to share. “Even going throughout my daily life, I’ll get a coffee, and some girl’s like, ‘I’m going through a breakup and your records are really, really helping me!’ That means, like, so much more than any number on a screen could ever mean.”

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