by Keith Human
When 2021 began, people, out of the blue, talked about a new single by a Disney star named Olivia Rodrigo. Though already known and appreciated for her role in High School Musical: The Musical (*weird title choice but okay*), Olivia still has a lot to prove, and what better way to prove you got more than taking a shot at the music industry. I opened Spotify and decided to give one of this year’s trending tracks a listen. The song starts with an engine running and then, the sound of a door opening. The music makes use of car sounds, in this case, the *ding* *ding* of an open car door syncing with a piano note as Olivia soberly sings the first line:
I got my driver’s license last week
Just like we always talk about…
Slowly it brings you to the narrator’s world and as the bridge hits, you finally understand why this song is so beloved amidst pandemic. Olivia Rodrigo’s “driver’s license” is what defined our emotions in-between a break-up. For an 18-year-old, this was one ambitious take on a rather odd choice of a narrative perspective but it works, its million streams both on Spotify and YouTube were just the beginning. It is something narratively new, undeniably familiar, yet provokingly convincing of a new artist’s bold approach to heartbreak songs.
In a few weeks, Olivia Rodrigo brings us to the second phase of her trilogy: the reminiscing phase. “deja vu” is the slow-burn sequel of “driver’s license” and also, the unapologetic sister of the slow ballad latter. It opens with a dream-like piano riff and though compared to “driver’s license”’ tapping, the piano in this song on the other hand is the main riff and it is what grasped you of the melancholic ambiance of the song. Olivia went as far as any other hurt a young woman would accumulate. In “deja vu”, she references almost every memory she still held against this man; from the new girl’s similarity with her name, The “Strawberry Ice Creams in Malibu”, and her teaching him about Billy Joel. The main thesis in this song is the question, “So when you gonna tell her that we did that too?”. It catapults the singer’s already established fame on a new hype.
It’s incredibly surprising how an 18-year-old emerges out of obscurity and instantly becomes a success with the three singles she released before her debut album despite the ongoing pandemic.
“deja vu” boasts a new aspect of Olivia’s persona, although, it is still a song about an ex— it’s a confessional take on the pettiness in-between and the injustice of being forced to let someone go even if you don’t want to. “de javu” ’s production is downright ambient and at the same time melodically boisterous and it is probably, my favorite between the two. After a month, weeks before her debut album announcement SOUR. The last single of the break-up trilogy was release, an alternative rock-inspired single called “good 4 u”.
Well, good for you, I guess you moved on easily
You found a new girl and it only took a couple weeks
Remember when you said that you wanted to give me the world?
And good for you, I guess that you’ve been workin’ on yourself
I guess that therapist I found for you, she really helped
Now you can be a better man for your brand new girl
Olivia’s break-up trilogy starts and ends with a middle finger. It is a guitar-driven swan song to every pain given by the guy before she finally moves on. Though referred to by many as the new generation’s introduction to Paramore for its similar chord progression to “Misery Business”, it is unfair to criticize the whole output for its similarity to another song because, let’s face it, nobody owns a chord progression. “Misery Business” is one thing while “good 4 u” is simply inspired. Besides Olivia Rodrigo is honest enough to acknowledge her influences in her music and the majority of it was music from the late 2000s. In this last entry of the trilogy, Olivia acknowledges the pain, as any normal being would, with anger and a dash of sarcasm to the one who caused it. “good 4 u” is an enjoyable rock song though at this point, after hearing enough of her narrative, it can get a little tedious for those expecting something new out of the songwriting. It’s not even as climactic as the last two entries. It did have an attitude, it had the theme, the guitar solo, but it didn’t have the edge to overshadow the two previous singles. Deriving away from her recent releases, what I am fond of “good 4 u” is the rawness and garage rock-inspired production we don’t hear a lot on the radio lately.
Take note: “driver’s license”, “de javu”, and “good 4 u”, has not, in any way, start a movement but it did leave an impression on every single one who listens to it. Olivia Rodrigo did not just appear out of thin air. Her songs were meticulously marketed and her individuality was slowly but surely spoon-fed to everyone who downloaded both Tiktok and Instagram on their phone. Olivia is aware of this. “driver’s license” started as a demo uploaded on her official account on Tiktok and once it went trending, a snippet of her compositions was uploaded next until it gained her thousands of new followers in a few months. She knows what generation she belongs in and she, with her management, won’t stop at anything to use it to their advantage to tackle their target audience. Upon release of the official studio of these songs, it is up to those who heard it first to talk about it. The internet plays a big role in the sudden boom of her stardom and she knows it. It’s incredibly surprising how an 18-year-old emerges out of obscurity and instantly becomes a success with the three singles she released before her debut album despite the ongoing pandemic. To answer the question, no, the trilogy wasn’t a big deal but it lingered. Hell, even the songs weren’t written in an escapist manner. It did not encourage to live life to the fullest, nor party. No. It wants us to be hurt and to be wary of those who caused it. For a trilogy of singles released during the pandemic, it somehow grounds itself on bitterness.
The internet plays a big role in the sudden boom of her stardom and she knows it.
Olivia Rodrigo is the amalgamation of all of the contemporary female artists that came before her. She took inspiration, even sampled some of them, and molded them into her own. She embodies the young kid who heard the music from our generation and embraces everything about it. Thus’ creating not something new but a personality out of those singles, and amazingly, she pulled it off not just with one—but with three singles. The SOUR trilogy might not appeal upon repeated listening but you can tell, she is off to a great start.
Multi-instrumentalist, Songwriter, Photographer, Writer, and Filmmaker, Keith Human (Keith Raymier G. Ayuman) has released some of his work across the internet and is still doing so. Born from a strict Catholic family, he aspires to derive away from the whole cycle he had witnessed by being an artist. Recently signed to Melt Records and with an upcoming single, Keith Human continues to be the music nerd and obscure musical instruments collector he always associates himself to be. He has released 2 EPs and released his debut music video directorial “Inside My Head” by Mandaue Nights last year.