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Olivia Rodrigo's "Driver's License": A Guide for Clueless Grownups to the Biggest Song of the Year

Your kids are listening to “Driver’s License” on repeat. Try to get with the program?

Jack Shepherd

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I hate to tell you this, but you are already pretty late to this trend. It’s not too late to turn things around, but if you want to be a parent who is responsible, hip, and at least somewhat tuned in to what’s happening, you need to know who Olivia Rodrigo is, you need to know what “Driver’s License” is, and you need to be loudly wailing “Red lights, stop signs ...” in the shower every single morning starting RIGHT NOW. 

Don’t panic: I’m here to help. We can figure this out together.  

“Who is Olivia Rodrigo?” you are asking. This is a great question, but one that you should keep to yourself. It’s a very embarrassing thing to say out loud, because everybody knows who Olivia Rodrigo is. And now you are about to as well!


Olivia Rodrigo is a Disney star. She played Paige Olivera on the TV series “Bizaardvark,” and Nini Salazar-Roberts on the TV series “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (HSMTMTS). Yes, they made a TV series based on the “High School Musical” films. Now you know that, too! She also wrote a song called “All I Want,” which was big on TikTok.

But that’s just background information. The important thing to know is that earlier this month (yes, this very month — the train hasn’t fully left the station yet), she released a single from her debut EP called “Drivers License,” and it has been shattering records left and right. “Drivers License” has the most single-day Spotify streams for a non-holiday song, leading to one of the most impressive first weeks for any song in the history of streaming music (with 76.1 million streams in the United States), and it is dominating the Billboard Hot 100, keeping artists you’ve actually heard of like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa, and The Weeknd in its rearview mirror.


The song is also … good! It’s an old-school emotional ballad that will “give you the feels” (as you probably still say even though everyone stopped saying that 5 years ago). And it’s getting positive attention from stodgy old critics you probably respect as well (not that that matters!), with a glowing writeup in The New York Times: “It successfully balances dark yet crisp melodrama with bold tunefulness, softly pointed singing with sharp imagery” — try saying that to your kids; it’ll help you fit in.

But it’s also, importantly, steeped in drama. Is it a breakup song that is specifically about Olivia Rodrigo’s “HSMTMTS” co-star and rumored romantic partner Joshua Bassett?


Frankly, it’s unclear — and to you, of course, meaningless — but it’s very important to pretend to care about this sort of thing. 

Anyway, here are some conversation starters you can use next time the song comes up:

1. “I Stan this song. It has Lorde vibes.” (Don’t actually say this, please.)

2. “If you listen to the lyrics, Olivia says, ‘And you’re probably with that blonde girl who always made me doubt. She’s so much older than me.’ Surely this is a reference to American singer and actress Sabrina Carpenter, who is thought to be dating Joshua Bassett and who is four years Olivia Rodrigo’s senior?" 

3. “I heard that Taylor Swift herself gave this song her blessing. Quite an endorsement!”

4. “This song reminds me of when I got my drivers’ license. It was something I had been dreaming about ever since seeing the 1988 film ‘License to Drive,’ starring both of the Coreys.” (This will help establish a rapport with your kids by reminding them that you, too, were once a young person with interests and opinions.)

5. “RED LIGHTS STOP SIGNS I STILL SEE YOUR FACE.” (You can just kind of yell this passionately whenever the mood strikes you.)

You can watch the video here (it has a swear word in it so don’t play it too loud). Just keep your eyes out for all the abundant clues that it really is about ~Joshua~, and get ready to get emotional when the “Red Lights” part hits. 

Congrats, you’re completely up to date until whatever next month’s song is.