“Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo, a 17-year-old Disney actor who most recently starred in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, at broken Spotify records for the most played song in a day.
The “driver’s license” rose to number one on the Spotify charts in just a week after its release. On Tuesday, it was played over 17 million times, the most for a song in a single day (17,010,000 streams, a Spotify representative confirmed to BuzzFeed News).
The song is a melodramatic pop ballad about liberation from getting a driver’s license so the protagonist can see their partner on their own terms – only to have that dream shattered by their breakup. “Yeah, you said forever, now I’m driving alone on your street,” Rodrigo sings. The dramatic crescendo of the air, in particular, painfully transports the listener to the cinema of high school life, love and heartbreak.
Amid a global pandemic and frightening threats ahead of the inauguration, the song gives young people – and even adults – permission to step aside to worry about the tropey teen drama.
The song is now one of TikTok’s hottest sounds, which is also helping to increase its popularity. The more Rodrigo and others promoted the song on the app, the more it made people listen to the full song on Spotify. The more people who listen, the more they keep posting about it on TikTok and other platforms like Twitter and Instagram. And so on.
Right now, TikTok is full of jokes about the gossip and obsession surrounding the song. (Along with the popularity of the song, there are rumors that this is Rodrigo’s actual love triangle with his former High school music costar.) Internet users comment on the enormity of the success.
Even Taylor Swift, whom Olivia has publicly idolized, praised her in an Instagram comment. Charli D’Amelio has, as expected, given him his most moving choreography.
The ‘driver’s license’ cuts the mud of 2021 in an important but simple way. This is because “Driver’s License,” whose title is intentionally tiny as an important stylistic detail, is a song from that precise moment. It’s a moment that Swift helped achieve with her own lowercase albums (always, folklore) who had a strong impact despite their introversion.
In quarantine, Swift created some music inside. People stuck at home thirsted for music that was heavy with escape stories and melodies that centered their emotions. Now Rodrigo really delivered this in the most basic way, and I mean that as a compliment.
For American teens, their most formative and experimental years have been violently interrupted by the pandemic. They grew up experiencing economic instability and their political conscience was awakened by the Trump administration. They deserve a simple ballad that talks about the smallness of their world – crushes and dreams of the future, and negotiates freedom with their parents.
Damn, me, an adult of almost 30, I find it difficult to fight against the madness of our democracy, and the “driving license” gives me comfort. I’m instantly transported to high school, having a crush, dreaming about my future in writing and discussing curfews.
Plus, “Driver’s License” is just a really good song.
It’s a sad song, but it’s an accessible type of sad.
Grief is one of the most common experiences of grief in teens, so it’s much easier to joke about the shared experience on social media.