A star is born! Olivia Rodrigo unveiled her debut single, “Drivers License,” on Friday (Jan. 8), announcing herself as a pop star in the making and kicking her career into a new gear.
The emotive track, an ode to the end of a relationship that Rodrigo penned in quarantine, finds the teen singer roving through the streets of suburbia with her newly christened driver’s license, heartbroken that her ex has quickly moved on with someone older who’s “everything [she’s] insecure about.”
“When I came up with ‘Drivers License,’ I was going through a heartbreak that was so confusing to me, so multifaceted,” Rodrigo — who is signed to Geffen Records — said in a statement about the song. “Putting all those feelings into a song made everything seem so much simpler and clearer — and at the end of the day, I think that’s really the whole purpose of songwriting. There’s nothing like sitting at the piano in my bedroom and writing a really sad song. It’s truly my favorite thing in the world.”
“Drivers License” will serve as the lead single for Rodrigo’s upcoming debut EP, which is due out sometime later this year.
To celebrate the lovelorn ballad’s release, Billboard rounded up five things you need to know about the burgeoning star.
She’s a Next-Generation Wildcat
What team? Before branching out into solo music, the 17-year-old actress got her big break with a starring role in the Disney+ original series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. In the mockumentary-style continuation of the hit trilogy, Rodrigo plays Nini Salazar-Roberts, a musical theater student cast as Gabriella Montez — the role originated by Vanessa Hudgens in the films — in a fictional East High’s first-ever stage production of High School Musical. (Season 2 of the series is currently filming.)
She Got Her Start on the Disney Channel
Rodrigo’s now best known as part of the High School Musical universe, but her first major TV role was on Bizaardvark, another Disney Channel original series that ran from 2016 to 2019. For three seasons, the teen star played Paige Olvera, a guitarist who makes viral videos with her BFF, alongside co-stars Madison Hu and Jake Paul.
She’s Got Taylor Swift’s Stamp of Approval
In the wake of releasing “Drivers License,” none other than Taylor Swift showed support for the single, proudly commenting on Rodrigo’s post about seeing her song right below the superstar’s pair of Evermore bonus tracks — “Right Where You Left Me” and “It’s Time to Go” — on the iTunes chart.
However, that wasn’t the first time Tay has shown Rodrigo some love on social media. Back in April 2020, the younger star covered Lover-era fan favorite “Cruel Summer” for MTV’s Alone Together Jam Session, and Swift took notice, praising the performance on her Instagram Stories. “THE TALENT,” she wrote. “Love This!!! Thanks for this beautiful performance @olivia.rodrigo.”
Naturally, Rodrigo was more than a little excited about the shout-out from her idol, and shared her ecstatic, all-caps reaction on her own Instagram feed. “TAYLOR SWIFT IS THE REASON I WRITE SONGS AND SHE POSTED ME ON HER STORY AND TOLD ME I WAS TALENTED??? WHEN IS ASHTON KUTCHER GONNA JUMP OUT OF A BUSH WITH A CAMERA CREW!!!!???!??!” she wrote, also declaring, “I AM GONNA FRAME THIS SCREENSHOT AND HANG IT ABOVE MY FIRSTBORN’S CRIB.”
She Changed One Important Detail in “Drivers License”
While her debut single is clearly about a breakup, Rodrigo has yet to publicly confirm whether the track took inspiration from the end of her relationship with former boyfriend and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Basset. (The couple reportedly split sometime in 2020, and he’s since been spotted more than a few times with Sabrina Carpenter.) However, several fans have taken note of a particular change in the lyrics from an earlier, leaked version of “Drivers License” that has them theorizing the track takes aim at Basset.
“Olivia changing the lyrics from ‘with that brunette girl’ to ‘that blonde girl’ when i tell you i screamed girl scream that truth queen,” one fan tweeted. Another Twitter user declared, “i’m not even an olivia rodrigo fan but her nEW SONG???? joshua basket or whatever ur name is how dare u hurt her like that wtf.”
However, it should be noted that Basset liked Rodrigo’s Instagram post revealing the single’s release date and cover art.
olivia changing the lyrics from “with that brunette girl” to “that blonde girl” when i tell you i screamed girl scream that truth queen
— val 7🧣 (@wondercara) January 8, 2021
i’m not even an olivia rodrigo fan but her nEW SONG???? joshua basket or whatever ur name is how dare u hurt her like that wtf
— boo ♡ (@rainflowerlou) January 8, 2021
She’s Already Written a Hot 100 Hit
“Drivers License” may be primed to catapult Rodrigo’s music career into another lane, but she’d already landed a Billboard Hot 100 hit before the single’s release thanks to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. For the show’s soundtrack, the star wrote piano-driven ballad “All I Want,” which her character performs in the fourth episode of the first season. Thanks to its vulnerable lyrics and popularity with fans, the track eventually bowed at No. 90 on the Hot 100 and was certified gold following the soundtrack’s January 2020 release.