Olivia Rodrigo is best known for her work on Disney +’s High School Musical: The Musical. However, she has followed her hero Taylor Swift by putting out a catchy pop infused record on heartbreak and the many faces of love. In a sense, she traded in her Mickey Mouse ears for her version of 1989. Now, this is not 1989, because we all know that 1989 is the best pop album ever recorded. However, Olivia shows the same magic combination of catchy vocals and well written lyrics that Swift used to rocket into stardom.
The lyrics of Drivers License are not on the same depth as other relationship focused records like: Lemonade, folklore or Gaslighter…but you have to start somewhere. At the core of this track is your first love, self-doubt and insecurity. Much like Fearless, Rodrigo’s track is an excellent coming of age track that shows a wisdom and insight beyond her 18 years. It is about how one’s first love can be all encompassing and seem like it will never end…only to end in flames. Even though he said they would be in love forever, she can’t believe how “ok” he is when she leaves. Ouch. Moreover, she sings about comparing herself to other girls and finding doubt and insecurity. This level of insight and honesty is largely missing from coming of age love songs, which is why it is so welcomed in this track.
I enjoy Rodrigos’ lyrics, but her vocal is what really carries Drivers License. If you just briefly scan the radio, a lot of women out there sound like a pale imitation of Lorde’s Pure Heroine or Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy. However, Rodrigo’s vocal does not fall into this trap. What sets her apart is her ability to go a number of different speeds. She is able to bring it when she has to and pull it back when the song demands restraint. Most artists out there are one speed and can either blow fire for the entire track or whisper like they are singing during a golf tournament. Rodrigo is able to move in and out of different speeds and paces, which gives the track added texture. Moreover, she has tremendous range and a clear modern pop sound. This is probably due to her Disney training and turning out tween pop tracks out for Mickey and co. since she was 16. Having said that, there’s a reason Disney makes more money than 80% of the countries on Earth….that formula works! Rodrigo’s perfectly tuned Disney pop sound will nest in your head and live there for generations.
To sum it up, Drivers License is a well constructed and well sung coming of age pop track. This may seem like faint praise, but this is also a track that I have listened to for an hour on repeat and still bop my head to. It is infectious. Rodrigo is able to have a relatable song about love and insecurity that speaks to everyone between the ages of 12 – 53. If this is what she can come up with on her first record, I am really looking forward to what comes next. Look out Taylor.
Listen to Drivers License