Olivia Rodrigo dropped the highly anticipated follow-up to her smash “Drivers License” on Thursday (April 1), and if you thought you had so many emotions before, “Deja Vu” will really have you (re)visiting your feelings.
“So when you gonna tell her that we did that too?/ She thinks it’s special/ But it’s all re-used/ That was our place, I found it first/ I made the jokes you tell to her/ When she’s with you,” Rodrigo sings in her breathy voice after ticking off a list of been-there-done-that memories.
Car rides to Malibu? Sharing strawberry ice cream with one spoon? Trading jackets, watching Glee re-runs, check, check, check and check to all those things she sings about in the opening verse, which includes the dagger lines, “Being annoying, singing in harmony/ I bet she’s braggin’ to all her friends/ Saying you’re so unique.”
The final twist comes in the knowing chorus: “Do you get deja vu when she’s with you?/ Do you get deja vu/ Do you get deja vu?” If that storyline sounds familiar, it’s because the second track from the High School Music: The Musical: The Series star is a part two of sorts to the ex-who-moved-on narrative of “License,” which exploded earlier this year on its way to becoming one of the most-dominant Billboard Hot 100 hits of the past three decades, lodging eight weeks on the top of the chart.
“Deja Vu,” which will appear on Rodrigo’s upcoming full-length debut album for Geffen, due out on May 21, was written by the singer and produced and co-written by Dan Nigro. The video for the song finds Rodrigo revisiting the old haunts of her love, trying on a green dress that elicits a knowing smile, and rewatching footage of the good old days on a stack of vintage TVs. With her doppelgänger beaming into the scene to drive the been-there-wore-that point home, Rodrigo flashes a satisfied, knowing smile before the slow-burn track builds to a buzzing crescendo as she swings a sledgehammer to destroy the cathode ray images of what was.
“The concept of deja vu has always fascinated me, and I thought it would be cool to use it in a song around the complex feelings after a relationship ends,” said Rodrigo in a statement. “I started writing and recording ‘Deja Vu’ last fall and had so much fun creating the different melodies and sonic textures that you hear throughout.”
The visual was directed by Allie Avital and features Talia Ryder, the break-out co-star of the heartbreaking 2020 film Never Rarely Sometimes Always, as the new woman.
The singer sat down with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe on Thursday to talk about the single, which she said she wrote a month after penning “Drivers License.” She said she gets déjà vu “all the time,” which made her think it might be cool to use the phrase as a “metaphor for this very universal thing that happens when you break up with someone and they get with somebody else, and see them living the life that you lived. … Yeah, it’s just a super universal thing that I think happens to everyone that we just don’t really talk about a ton.”
She said she had the line “when she’s with you, do you get déjà vu?” in her phone for along time and when she got in the studio with Nigro, they were trying to write a sad song, but it just wasn’t coming together. “And he’s like, ‘What else do you have?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I have this line,'” she recalled. “And so I was like, ‘Oh, I have this line written,’ and he really liked it. And so we kind of wrote it together and kind of created this whole world. And I really love painting pictures with songs.”
Rodrigo told Lowe that it was really important to her that they didn’t put out another ballad after “License” in order to show off her versatility as a songwriter, which is why they went with a more driving attack this time out. “It was sort of just a natural progression. I think it’s a nice introduction to all of the other things that I can do,” she said, adding that she always hates how her songs sound when she first hears them, and that there were probably 30 mixes of “Deja Vu” before they landed on the one that was released.
“It’s different for me because I think it’s not like a vocal driven song necessarily,” she explained. “It has the great lyrics, I think, I’m very lyrics person, but it’s really a lot about the music, and the feeling comes from the music. Not necessarily always the lyrics, which I wasn’t used to. And so it took a little bit of trial and error to get it to a place where we were all happy with. But I’m really happy with it now.”
Watch the “Deja Vu” video and Apple Music interview below.