The Real Reason Why 'Drivers License' Deserves the Hype
By Kaylee Braidwood
Whether written, drawn, or sung, the highs and lows of human emotion tend to produce the most alluring stories. Expressive pop artists —the storytellers of our generation — have made a comfortable living appealing to the curiosity that lives within all of us. With a backstory straight out of a teenage romance, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” definitely hits the spot, but her stunning lyrics and unrestrained emotion are even more compelling than the drama behind her new hit single.
For those who have somehow managed to miss the latest celebrity teen drama, here is the rundown: 17-year-old singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo recently starred in the Disney+ original series “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” in which her onscreen connection with co-star Joshua Bassett was so intense that viewers everywhere were swooning. Fans quickly started to speculate that the chemistry between Rodrigo and Bassett continued offscreen as they often appeared together on Instagram and discussed co-writing music together. However, a TikTok posted by Rodrigo in August 2020 mentioning a ‘failed relationship’ made it clear that any romance between them had fizzled out. Since then, rumors have circulated that Bassett moved on and is now dating Sabrina Carpenter, another Disney star who has been seen publicly with Bassett and appears in TikToks with him rather frequently.
Although not officially confirmed, numerous lyrics support the popular theory that Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” is a song about her heartbreak as she watches Bassett move on from their relationship.
Remember those highs and lows of human emotion mentioned earlier? Well, the feeling of having your heartbroken for the very first time is quite the notorious low. Through brave transparency and heart-wrenching lyrics, Rodrigo manages to shine a light on arguably the worst feeling that surfaces after your first heartbreak: the fear of never being able to find a love that feels the same again.
Sure, the inspiration for the song may be very appealing, but Rodrigo’s beautifully mature take on such a painful, yet innocent feeling is why I believe the song is in its sixth week of being the number one song in the world.
As listeners, we are taken on an emotional and lonely drive through the suburbs with Rodrigo and her thoughts, which she portrays through smooth transitions from verse to verse. The first verse tells us that she is driving around aimlessly to help cope with the fact that the person she wants to drive to most is no longer around. She doesn’t leave us wondering what happened for long, as the next verse leads with, “you’re probably with that blonde girl” who is “so much older” than Rodrigo. Most fans have assumed this line is referencing 21-year-old Carpenter. More importantly, however, this line introduces Rodrigo’s pain about her first love moving on while she is still stuck navigating the heavy feelings of being a heartbroken and, naturally, insecure teen.
The verse ends with a line that creates a meaningful segue between the setup of the song and the chorus, giving listeners full insight into what is going on in Rodrigo’s head: “Today I drove through the suburbs ‘cause how could I ever love someone else?”
This line is what makes this song so easy to resonate with. She asks a question that feels almost impossible to answer. The person she wrote this about, whether Bassett or someone else, is her point of reference for what being in love is supposed to feel like and will be until she is able to move on too. She then makes it clear in the chorus that she still feels deeply hurt and even hints at betrayal, “I guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me, ‘cause you said forever now I drive alone past your street”, making it clear that she is still healing and is using driving to assist her in that process.
Until the bridge.
All of a sudden, her drive through the suburbs becomes a bombardment of memories from this past relationship. Rodrigo refuses to hold back here as she lets a few F-bombs fly and hones in on her sentiment with deep lyricism. With the raw emotion and addicting musical buildup, the bridge alone is reason to have this song on repeat. Whatever pain she is feeling is still very prominent in her life, and she makes it clear that she feels far from being able to move on.
But, as the bridge fades, so does Rodrigo’s intensity. She seems to be on the brink of acceptance as the lyric switches to “‘Cause you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me,” rather than “I guess,” and she repeats the line “you said forever now I drive alone past your street” twice to close out the song. As if, maybe the drive really did work in helping her take a step towards moving on?
Either way, Olivia Rodrigo was able to turn the sticky mess of teenage emotions into a work of art that is topping the charts. I find that to be much more impressive than the story that may have inspired it. Try not to let the dramatics outshine the pure passion that is poured into this song. I am greatly looking forward to what our new favorite lyrical prodigy has coming up next — and yes, I’m hoping it is a song about moving forward and recognizing her worth.