By Joey Gibbs
The devil works hard, but the industry works harder. Recently amassing indomitable success is Disney actress turned pop-sensation, Olivia Rodrigo, with her number-one hit, “drivers license.”
The song is atmospheric — a down-to-earth exposé on her dark feelings of heartache and pain. Her vocals are powerful, impressive and from her discography on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” you can hear evident improvement. While the song overall lacks that memorability substantial pop songs have, as well as typecasts Rodrigo into a “sad songs for teens” singer, her prowess in the game must be recognized.
“drivers license” is 2021’s most successful song internationally — it broke numerous records across the most popular streaming sites and debuted at the top of the nefarious Billboard Hot 100.
Mainstream listeners go wild for young, wistfully nasal pop girls because they fully encase themselves within their work. “driver license” is a digestible song with a familiar bedroom-pop sound that the audience eats up. People reflect and yearn to be in Rodrigo’s heartbreak. Time and time again when artists showcase personal emotion in such an artistic yet convenient way, it goes ballistic on the sales.
This is where it starts to get a little sinister.
Rodrigo has a decent lyrical ability; the cutting-edge line on everyone’s ears is definitely: “and you’re probably with that blonde girl – who always made me doubt.” To ease the tension, the blonde girl is clearly former Disney star Sabrina Carpenter, who is not unfamiliar with the Billboard herself. From one industry plant to another, you would think the discourse would be a little friendly, but this was not the case.
While the production line of young female stars from actress to singer is not new or uncommon, I believe we are again seeing it unfold right before our eyes, even just aspects of it. A little over two weeks later, Carpenter, unofficially but obviously, released a track called “Skin,” in response to “drivers license.”
While Rodrigo’s song pouts her insecurity towards losing her lover— HSMTM:TS co-star Joshua Basset — to Carpenter, Carpenter responds with a jeer and a rough pat on the back. “Skin” is a poorly done track, which is a shame considering Carpenter has a lot of powerful singles and collaborations under her belt.
Lyrically, “Skin” is a defensive track that promotes that nothing can break down Carpenter’s walls nor her relationship. The chorus is forgetful and in perspective, weird. She is clearly singing to a 17-year-old heartbroken Rodrigo and rubbing in the fact that she won: “You can try to get…under my skin – while he’s on mine.”
Carpenter came under fire for bashing Rodrigo and riding her coattails of success and recently claimed that “Skin” was meant to be universal, telling us how we were supposed to view her art: “…especially those who have opened their minds to lyrically what i was trying to get across.”
Obviously, the public chose their love for drama over their love for Carpenter, as they didn’t seem to change their minds. Under all of this, our leading man Joshua Bassett also came out with a 2021 single entitled “Lie Lie Lie,” a run-of-the-mill, pretty boy song about a bad relationship. What ties all three of these artists together? Yes, music and dating, of course — Disney.
I see it as: Rodrigo dropped her ballad and the execs had a good feeling it was going to explode because of her previously Gold-ranked single “All I Want,” and they assumed “driver’s license” would follow suit. Once they saw the sheer success of Rodrigo’s pain, the execs knew they could profit off it.
Bassett and Carpenter dropped their songs to get the attention and the money from streams and headlines would flow in — positive or negative, press is press when you have not yet topped the Billboard Hot 100.
“drivers license” is genuinely good albeit a tad naïve, and sad-girl Rodrigo blew up once already, so a lot of money went into pushing her new single on apps like Tiktok. They probably wanted the same for Carpenter and Bassett, but it was to no avail, because those songs, in wake of Rodrigo’s victory, lack what the audience truly loves — personality. I can picture all three of them now texting in a group chat talking about what their next publicity stunt is — if not them, then their managers.
The drama that lies in front of us now is a factory-made scandal that left its ties a little too open, but at least no one has a music video with a copycat … yet.