Single Review: Olivia Rodrigo takes the road most traveled on “drivers license”

The 17-year-old pop star’s debut single is par the course for a Disney starlet.

The bygone age of Disney pop starlets may be on the verge of a renaissance. While Selena, Demi, Miley, and Ariana have a lock on the ex-acts market, a new star seems to be rising above the horizon. Sitting atop both Spotify and iTunes’ song charts at present, Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” looks to be the first Top 10 debut for a current Disney act since Miley Cyrus hit No. 8 nearly eleven years ago(!) with “Can’t Be Tamed.”

Rodrigo’s lyricism on the single offers a teenage vision of Alannis Morisette’s “You Oughta Know,” as she cries out, “You said forever / Now I drive alone past your street.” That favorable comparison aside, the lyrics on “License” leave much to be desired, with tired, rudimentary lines like “And I know we weren’t perfect / But I’ve never felt this way for no one,” or the comically vague “you’re probably with that blonde girl.” These sort of surface-level images make the song all the more relatable to her teenage audience but fail to show wisdom beyond her years. The production does nothing to mitigate this banality, providing a straight down-the-middle piano and drum-driven Adult Contemporary sound.

Where “License” excels is inarguably in Rodrigo’s delivery. While it’s not perfect, her voice swells in both volume and emotion in the pre-chorus, as she pines to understand when and where her relationship changed. While the lyrics leave her with a disadvantage as she begins her performance, she clearly connects with the song and never lets it go, delivering the raw, teenage heartbreak that hasn’t been seen in Pop for a few years.

“drivers license” is not a tour de force artistic statement by any means. While she clearly has a hit on her hands already, it doesn’t meet the same qualitative standard that many before her set with their respective debuts. But at just 17, Rodrigo starts on a stronger foot than many, and she will surely have the opportunity to rise from here.

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