Angst, angst, angst. IMAGE: Olivia Rodrigo/VEVO.
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Okay, boomers, this one’s for you

If you’ve stumbled across this article, chances are you’ve heard of the song “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo, the 17-year-old star of the hit show High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (HSMTMTS) on Disney+. Yet despite her young age, she’s become a record holder for most daily streams of a single, reaching over 242 million streams globally on Spotify. If you haven’t heard it yet, the song’s a catchy, heartfelt love ballad (read: angst anthem) about a breakup.

So what’s the hype? There are millions of songs that all talk about the pains of love; why is this song a chart breaker?

Due to the increased use of TikTok in 2020, fans and drama lovers have come together with their own speculations and theories about the true meaning behind “drivers license” and videos to this effect have gone viral.

The backstory

Rodrigo and HSMTMTS co-star Joshua Bassett were speculated to be dating before the release of “drivers license.” Their characters on the show  actually date, and apparently showed the same chemistry when the cameras weren’t rolling. However, they never publicly dated. 

But then Bassett came out with a new song called “Anyone Else” on July 16, 2020, with lyrics like  “when you’re ready I’ll be ready too” and “kills me every time he’s with you.” Fans debated in comment sections across platforms about whether this song was actually written for Olivia or another speculated crush, Sabrina Carpenter, but we’ll get to her later.

Exactly one month after the release of the single, Rodrigo posted a pic of her in a light blue top with bright pink letters spelling “DUMP HIM” on the front.

With the post, it became publicly clear that Rodrigo and Bassett were no longer in awe of each other, and to make it even more obvious, Bassett posted a TikTok with Carpenter showing off their Halloween costumes as Shark Boy and Lava Girl. 

Okay, so, who’s Sabrina Carpenter? Another Disney star and singer —  she’s older (21)  and as you have maybe guessed correctly, is the girl with the blonde hair Rodrigo sings about in “drivers license.”

Rodrigo reportedly wrote about her heartbreak and feeling insecure by comparing herself to Carpenter within her song, singing “she’s so much older than me/ she’s everything I’m insecure about” and usually that’s where most teenage heartbreak ends. That’s it. You’re ex moved on faster than you and you mope around a bit before rediscovering that you don’t need them. The end. 

Well, not for this melodrama, of course!

The aftermath

The release of “drivers license” on Jan. 8  led to the song — and the speculated drama — going viral. So of course, Bassett and Carpenter felt the need to formally respond — in song.

Bassett released “Lie Lie Lie” on Jan. 14, where he sings: “You can’t seem to get me off your mind, oh/ I know you’re lying through your teeth /You told them the lies that you told me/ I’ve had enough of it this time”, as well as “I kiss your ass goodbye.” It seems pretty clear that Bassett disagrees with Rodrigo’s account of what happened.

Carpenter then released her own side of the story, “Skin,” on Jan. 22, with lyrics like “but you got to tell your side so I’ll be telling mine / you can try to get under my skin while he’s on my skin” practically flaunting her new relationship with Bassett. Then she continues, “maybe we could have been friends if I’ve met you in another life” which is a bit more optimistic. But she ends it off by singing “don’t drive yourself insane.” 


So far, the saga has yet to continue since all parties have come out and given their side of the story. Although all this drama may seem irrelevant (and may make anyone over the age of 18 feel ancient), Rodrigo’s “drivers license” “is one of the most dominant No.1’s of the last 30 years,” per Trevor Anderson of She has been tweeted at by Cardi B, and has even had her song appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in a ‘sea shanty’ version. 

Although their public love triangle may be coming to an end, Rodrigo’s career is only beginning as she follows in the footsteps of her lifelong idol Taylor Swift, who has written enough love ballads to fill an ocean. Swift commented on Rodrigo’s Instagram saying “I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud” — an extra-special commendation, as Swift’s own mom once said the same about her when she was younger.

It’s safe to say there is still plenty of road ahead for Rodrigo to keep driving on, and hey  — at least she has her license, now, to do so.


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