After a landmark year in which she released her debut album, played her first big concert and broke streaming records, the rise of Olivia Rodrigo has only just begun.
The promising Disney starlet-turned-international pop star — who has been named Billboard’s Woman of the Year for the 2022 Women in Music Awards — has said she’s been singing all her life, but began honing her craft at age 5 by taking singing lessons and performing at (and winning) local talent competitions before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the spotlight.
Ahead of the 2022 Billboard Women in Music Awards on March 2 at the YouTube Theater at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., see how Rodrigo has grown as a singer over the years, from performing covers of classics to the self-written tunes she’s now known for.
Age 6, “Don’t Stop Believin’”
A very little, pigtailed Rodrigo rocked the stage at the 2010 NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim, Calif.. She nailed the rock-star attitude during her performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Highlight: Slowly raising her arm (à la Glee) as she held the high note in the pre-chorus, followed by an adorable little strut during the guitar solo.
Age 8, “Don’t Rain on My Parade”
One of the singing competitions Rodrigo performed at on at least two occasions was her town’s local Boys & Girls Club Idol in 2011. You can see the payoff in her singing lessons as she showed off her range in “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” made famous by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. Rodrigo’s rendition earned her first place in her age group. Watch her take the stage here.
Highlight: The pout on her face and vibrato in her voice as she sang “Your turn at bat, sir/ At least I didn’t fake it/ Hat, sir, I guess I didn’t make it!”
Age 10, “Mama Knows Best”
“I like singing because it’s the funnest thing since… everything,” Rodrigo shyly laughs in a video clip before taking the stage at 2013’s Boys & Girls Club Idol. Her somewhat reserved demeanor does a complete 180 as soon as she belts the first note of Jessie J’s “Mama Knows Best,” which again won her the top prize at the competition. Watch her performance here.
Highlight: She shows off her riffing abilities throughout the song, but her jazzy scat is wholly impressive after just five years of singing lessons.
Age 12, “Hello”
Rodrigo brought out a guitar for her acoustic rendition of Adele’s “Hello.” The preteen perfects her crescendos and tone as she hits the low notes in the verses and belts the high notes in the chorus.
Highlight: Her riffs during the bridge. Nuff said.
Age 16, “All I Want”
A couple of months following the release of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series in December 2019, Rodrigo delivered a somber performance of “All I Want,” which she self-wrote for her character on the show. Only her voice and the keyboard she’s playing fill the minimalist room as she beautifully sings the ballad.
Highlight: Her riff when she sings, “We fell in love but it didn’t last.”
Age 17, “drivers license”
The Tonight Show hosted Rodrigo for the TV debut of her eight-week Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper “drivers license.” She hits all the right notes in her moody performance as she plays a grand piano, later joined by a string quartet.
Highlight: Her powerful start to the bridge — “Red lights, stop signs” — as the soft white lasers that light the stage turn red.
Age 18, “traitor”
For one of the last performances wrapping up her huge debut year, Rodrigo played a set of at the annual Austin City Limits festival. She has officially nailed the pop-star persona as she sings the fourth single from Sour alongside an all-girl band to an audience of fans mouthing all the lyrics: “You betrayed me/ And I know that you’ll never feel sorry/ For the way I hurt, yeah.”
Highlight: Belting the lyric “traitor” has she sings the chorus the final time and stands center stage.