A rising Olivia Rodrigo solidifies drive in music, and the community

Olivia Rodrigo – Disney Television via Flickr

Haverford students have a strong connection to music. Whether it be center stage in a musical, in rehearsal with a choir, or jamming out with friends, music culture has always found its way into our community. 

     Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of music has continued to listen, and more importantly, produce, moving into 2021 with passion. With such a move comes the entrance of this year’s newest and most promising artists. That includes the rising singer Olivia Rodrigo.

     For many, the name may not sound familiar. The Disney+ and Disney Channel actress found success in her pursuits on the television show, Bizaardvark, and the streamed series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

     However, with two new singles released, you will likely recognize her singing. Her debut independent from Disney, “Drivers License,” launched with widespread fanfare in January. Dominating Amazon, Apple Music, and Spotify charts, the song quickly cruised to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and blew up in the world of TikTok. 

     “Drivers License,” most notably, has been noted for its sentimental theme and presentation.

     Third Former Russell Yoh said, “I instantly liked the song, which I think is because of the emotional vibe it has. I’ve also always appreciated the gradual build that the instrumental of the song has from beginning to end.”

     Composed of a slow ballad with a restrained vocal, Rodrigo’s song details the feeling of heartache, using her newly earned driver’s license as a symbol for a past relationship. Her vocals, amplified through a predominantly light keyboard instrumental, have resonated with a large audience.

“Her music really speaks to people through [the] lyrics, largely due to her fantastic storytelling.”

Chase Nelson ’24

     “Her music really speaks to people through [the] lyrics, largely due to her fantastic storytelling,” Third Former Chase Nelson said.

     This storytelling is evidenced through the narrative element that encompasses Rodrigo’s singing. Beginning with, “I got my driver’s license last week…,” she describes a story embodying her emotions. Her composition embodies its key emotion not only through its lyrics but through its rich and mixed vocals. 

     “‘Cause you were so excited for me to finally drive up to your house./ But today I drove through the suburbs,

crying ’cause you weren’t around.”

     Heartbreak is a subject rarely discussed by the traditional teenager, though that relatable quality proves important for its reception, even in spaces where such discourse is uncommon.

     “Mostly Oliva Rodrigo’s music is [aimed] towards teenage problems such as heartache,” Third Former Chase Shatzman said. “However, adults can find hope and happiness within her songs as well.”

     Building upon the success of her first song, Rodrigo released her second single, “Deja Vu.” Receiving a boosted public appearance, the song now joins “Drivers License” on the Billboard Hot 100 List.

     Matching the lighter and emotional ambiance of her debut title, “Deja Vu,” continues her relatability through references to the television show, Glee, the California coastline, ice cream, and Billy Joel. It builds upon her past works, too, adding a loosened vocal structure and sound.

     “‘Deja Vu’ was surprising to me because of how different it sounded compared to her previous song,” Yoh said. “It made me excited to see what she creates next.”

     And there is more to come from the now-well-established singer. The remainder of her album, Sour, from which “Drivers License” and “Deja Vu” come, is expected to be released on May 21, 2021.

     As anticipation builds for the reception of Rodrigo’s first completed debut album, many look on with excitement.

“From her new music to her older music [with Disney], fans are ready to hear a new album.”

Chase Shatzman ’24

     Shatzman said, “From her new music to her older music [with Disney], fans are ready to hear a new album.”

     Many have added Rodrigo to their playlists, too.

     “Although she doesn’t have many songs out yet, I do listen to Olivia’s music,” Yoh said.

     While there is an overwhelmingly positive reception for Olivia Rodrigo’s music and the optimism for her future, some disagree with the hubbub surrounding her debut. Some suggest it lacks originality.

     “I’ve heard ‘Drivers License’ a couple of times and I really don’t see why everyone loves it so much,” Third Former Jai Bonaparte said. “It’s kind of boring to me.”

Author: Christopher Schwarting '24

Christopher Schwarting has been writing for the Index since 2020 and currently serves as a Managing Editor. His opinion piece "Queen Elizabeth leaves a lasting legacy, but Gen Z must be sure to see it all" received a Silver Key in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.