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  • Alex Poole

drivers license

On January 11, 2021, “drivers license,” Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single, went #1 on the Billboard Top 100, making her the youngest artist to ever debut at the top of the chart. Since its release, “drivers license” has broken Spotify’s single day streaming record for a non-holiday song, as well as the debut week streaming record on both Spotify and Amazon Music. It’s been certified double-platinum and has gone #1 in many other countries. “drivers license” is a runaway freight train of a song, and one of the most popular ones of the streaming era. At this point, you’re probably thinking either “duh” or “I’ve never heard this song before.” “drivers license,” and Rodrigo herself, are simultaneously unique and cookie-cutter. The song is a power pop break-up ballad in the tradition of Taylor Swift. It's one long crescendo, beginning sparsely with Rodrigo’s throaty vocals accompanied by a minimalist piano melody. By the end of the track, Rodrigo’s rage has fully simmered over. She lets out multi-layered vocals, including the immediately iconic repeated bridge, complete with the heart-wrenching, bellowed lyrics, “I still fuckin’ love you.” It’s a song I wouldn’t ordinarily seek out, but when it comes on the radio (which, again, is all the time), I enjoy it. Rodrigo’s heartbreak feels earnest, despite her youth, and the song is immaculately produced. What truly makes “drivers license” unique and potentially timeless, though, is how ubiquitous it is to some and foreign to others. On a weekly Zoom call with my friends from high school this past Friday, not a single person in a group of ten besides my partner and I had heard it. However, among tweens and on social media platform TikTok, “drivers license” is unavoidable. In a recent edition of the New York Times series “Diary of a Song,” Rodrigo details how she included a certain pause in the song specifically to be used as a transition for TikToks. To some, this could be seen as inorganic or pandering, but her decision was prescient; that part of the song, with the pause included, is fodder for hundreds of thousands of TikToks, and counting. Many other TikToks utilize the “I still fuckin’ love you” bridge, some authentically, many more as parody. It’s still unknown if Rodrigo will follow up with more hits, or if she will be seen as a one-hit wonder that perfectly encapsulates the TikTok era (I would bet on the former). This may just be the tip of the iceberg, as artists, especially young ones seemingly born fluent in social media, master the art of social media engagement. More and more songs will be made with TikTok (or whatever app comes next) in mind. “drivers license” itself may not be ageless, but its creation, as well as the thought process behind it, may be the new normal. - Art by Tien Servidio


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