Who is Olivia Rodrigo? 5 things to know about the viral ‘Drivers License’ star
Super-fans of Olivia Rodrigo have long been manifesting her “world domination” on social media. And this week, they got their wish.
The actress and teen songwriting phenom’s runaway hit of a debut single, “Drivers License,” has been shattering streaming records left and right since its buzzy release last week. In a recent interview with Billboard, Spotify’s head of global hits confirmed that the musical juggernaut set the platform’s record for most daily streams for a nonholiday song at more than 15.17 million — and then again at 17.01 million.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Spotify’s Becky Bass said, “where you do have a newer artist that just comes out of the gate in such a dominant way, and just continues to grow.”
The Season 1 finale of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” was the start of something new for Nini (Olivia Rodrigo) and Ricky (Joshua Bassett).
The song’s emotional lyrics and infectious hook (which you’ve probably heard by now) are all over TikTok, where hundreds of thousands of people — including the app’s queen bee, Charli D’Amelio — have been posting “Drivers License” videos, such as dances and explainers linking its contents to Rodrigo’s personal life. (We’d embed the video in this story — but she “still f—” loves the person she’s singing about.)
“I guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me,” Rodrigo sings on the angsty track about getting her license and coping with heartbreak. “‘Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street.”
Here are a few more things you should know about the 17-year-old “Drivers License” artist:
1. She’s the star of Disney+’s ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’
After making her Disney Channel debut in the tween sitcom “Bizaardvark,” Rodrigo scored the lead role of Nini Salazar-Roberts in Disney+’s “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”
In the meta spinoff — about teens who stage a production of “High School Musical” at the school where the hit TV movies were filmed — underdog choir girl Nini lands the coveted part of Gabriella Montez (originated by Vanessa Hudgens) with a melodic solo rendition of the Troy-Gabriella duet, “Start of Something New.”
2. This isn’t her first hit
In addition to starring in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” Rodrigo has written multiple songs for the show — including its most popular original, “All I Want.”
The heartfelt Season 1 ballad, which has amassed more than 193 million streams on Spotify, details Nini’s complicated relationships with two of her exes.
“[Gen Z-ers] have a particular insight on the world that sometimes adults don’t have,” Rodrigo told The Times last year of her approach to songwriting. “If you have a bunch of old white guys in a room trying to write a song for a teenage girl, their experience is never going to be the same as a teenage girl living in 2020.”
Last month, “High School Musical” showrunner Tim Federle revealed to The Times that Rodrigo had written another “pretty extraordinary” song for the show’s upcoming sophomore season. She also co-wrote a romantic Season 1 duet, “Just for a Moment,” with the Troy to her Gabriella, Joshua Bassett. We’ll get to him later.
3. She’s a huge Swiftie
Some have compared “Drivers License” to pop icon Taylor Swift’s music, which often draws on the singer’s personal heartbreaks in vivid detail, prompting rampant speculation as to what — and more important, who — inspired them.
Well, it just so happens that Rodrigo is a huge fan of Swift. And Swift is an admirer of Rodrigo too: After “Drivers License” charted among some of Swift’s most popular “Evermore” tracks on iTunes, the “Willow” hitmaker personally congratulated Rodrigo on Instagram.
“I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud,” Swift wrote, causing Rodrigo to lose her mind — and fans to predict that the young musician will be next in line to open for Swift on tour.
In April of last year, the Grammy winner shared Rodrigo’s acoustic cover of her fan-favorite “Lover” track, “Cruel Summer,” to her Instagram story. In turn, the Disney actress hailed Swift as “the reason I write songs.”
4. Swift isn’t her only famous fan
As mentioned above, TikTok star D’Amelio has also expressed her admiration for Rodrigo’s work — as have model Hailey Bieber, “Game of Thrones” star Sophie Turner, pop star Joe Jonas and others on social media.
Stars, they’re just like us: Grown adults shamelessly crying along to a song a 17-year-old wrote about getting her driver’s license.
5. So... what’s all this about Bassett and Sabrina Carpenter?
If you’ve been tracking the success of “Drivers License” over the last week, you’ve probably seen Bassett’s and Carpenter’s names floating around in connection with the tune.
That’s because the most prominent “Drivers License” fan theory posits that Rodrigo wrote the earworm about her on-screen “High School Musical” love interest, Bassett, who supposedly broke her heart in real life. #dra #ma!
Rumor has it that Rodrigo and Bassett fell for each other and possibly dated while working together on the show. Either way, the speculation is that their romance didn’t end well, and Bassett has since been linked to Disney Channel star-turned-singer Carpenter. (The two have appeared in multiple quarantine TikToks together, so you know it’s real.)
Bassett, 20, has also written and released some love songs of his own — hence the “Drivers License” lyric, “I guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me.” Rodrigo also mentions a “blond girl” that’s “so much older” than her on the track. Carpenter is, in fact, blond and four years Rodrigo’s senior at age 21. Make of that information what you will!
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” on Disney+ introduced a gay love story involving characters Carlos and Seb in its Dec. 6 episode.
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