Olivia R

“Driver’s License” showcases surprisingly powerful vocals that’ve pushed it to No. 1.

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single, “Driver’s License,” released Jan. 8, tells the emotional and relatable story of a teenage love turned into heartbreak.

Rodrigo previously made a name for herself on Disney Channel’s "Bizaardvark"and the Disney+ original "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," so it’s no surprise that the 17-year-old actress has begun to dip her toe into a music career. 

“Driver’s License” showcases surprisingly powerful vocals that’ve pushed it to No. 1 on Spotify, Amazon and Apple music charts within days of the single’s release, along with a co-sign from Taylor Swift.

A day after the song’s release, Rodrigo made a TikTok about the process of releasing the song, beginning with an Instagram post she made when she got her driver’s license, with a caption reading, “...now I can drive around the suburbs alone and cry.” She then decided that she wanted to write a song about the cathartic experience of driving around alone and crying, and the rest is history.    

Rodrigo captures her audience through narrative vocals that tell the story of planning to accomplish something big with your significant other, only to be let down when it doesn’t all go to plan. 

The song begins with, “I got my driver's license last week / Just like we always talked about /  'Cause you were so excited for me / To finally drive up to your house.” These emotional vocals immediately portray the deep sorrow often felt during a breakup, a tone that remains consistent throughout the single.

Rodrigo then continues to unveil more of the story as she reveals the ex is probably with an older, blonde girl, singing, “She's everything I'm insecure about,” another sentiment that many teenage girls can relate to. 

As the song transitions into the chorus, the simple, musical melody allows for Rodrigo’s voice to shine as her vocal range and control demonstrate a skill set of someone much older.

The lyrics, “Guess you didn't mean what you wrote in that song about me / 'Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street,” emphasize that Rodrigo isn’t just storytelling but is singing about her very own tragedy.    

A New York Post article explains how the song could be about Rodrigo’s co-star in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,”Joshua Bassett, and his new girlfriend, Sabrina Carpenter, who’s blonde and older than Rodrigo.  

The bridge of the song introduces a more prominent baseline with layered vocals to create a dynamic sound. Rodrigo’s emotion can be heard strongly at this point in the song as she’s clearly struggling with the reality of someone moving on from the relationship when she’s still attached to it. 

She comes to terms with the fact that she isn’t yet over the relationship by admitting she feels as if she can no longer go places or do things they used to do together: “Sidewalks we crossed / I still hear your voice in the traffic, we're laughing,” she sings. 

The lines, “God, I'm so blue, know we're through / But I still fuckin' love you, babe,” are other examples of powerful, emotional lyrics that capture so many unrequited lovers’ hearts. 

Rodrigo has definitely mastered the art of finding a balance between relating to her target audience while also demonstrating highly skilled, mature vocals. While her lyrical writing may not be the most advanced or metaphorical, she’s written a catchy, relatable chorus that she has excelled in vocally.  

She’s certainly made an impact in the musical world with the release of “Driver’s License,” and luckily for fans, her EP is scheduled to be released later this year. With amazing vocals and relatable lyrics, Rodrigo’s paving her own path to becoming another successful Disney actress turned pop star.   

Contact Avery Goodstine at goodstaj@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and  lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.