Drivers License

Album: Sour (2021)
Charted: 1 1
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Songfacts®:

  • Olivia Rodrigo was known as an actress when she released her first single as a solo artist, "Drivers License," at age 17. She made her name in a couple of Disney series; her breakthrough role was Paige Olvera on Bizaardvark, and she then played Nini Salazar-Roberts on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (the Gabriella of the original show). Rodrigo recorded several songs for HSM: The Musical: The Series, including the hit single "All I Want," which she also wrote.

    Rodrigo signed with Geffen Records in 2020 and released "Drivers License" on January 8, 2021. With a memorable heartsore vocal and cathartic bridge, the song was an instant sensation, going straight to #1 in America and topping the charts in many other countries as well. On Spotify, it was the most-streamed song of 2021, with a global count of 1.1 billion.
  • Rodrigo wrote the raw lyrics after breaking up with her boyfriend. The two used to talk about how excited they'd be when she passed her driving test and could drive to his home. Now she is aimlessly riding through the LA suburbs with her newly christened "driver's license," longing for her ex.

    "When I came up with 'drivers license,' I was going through a heartbreak that was so confusing to me, so multifaceted," Rodrigo explained. "Putting all those feelings into a song made everything seem so much simpler and clearer - and at the end of the day, I think that's really the whole purpose of songwriting. There's nothing like sitting at the piano in my bedroom and writing a really sad song. It's truly my favorite thing in the world."
  • Olivia's fans believe the subject of this lovelorn ballad is her HSM co-star Joshua Bassett, who she dated during the filming of the show in 2019 before splitting in early 2020.

    And you're probably with that blonde girl
    Who always made me doubt
    She's so much older than me
    She's everything I’m insecure about


    Olivia first posted a snippet of the song on her Instagram July 23, 2020, a fortnight after rumors started that Bassett was dating Sabrina Carpenter. The Girl Meets World actress has blonde hair and is four years older than Olivia.
  • Did you spot the incorrect grammar in the title - the song name should read "Driver's License." Rodrigo admitted to Vogue the error was her bad.

    "Oh, my gosh. I definitely got that wrong," she said. "I also put a double negative in the song when I say, 'I've never felt this way for no one,' which is completely grammatically incorrect. The song is all over the place [laughs]."
  • Rodrigo wrote the song with the track's producer Dan Nigro. His other credits include Sky Ferreria's "I Blame Myself," Freya Ridings' "Castles" and Conan Gray's "Heather."
  • Matthew Dillon Cohen directed the accompanying music video, which sees Rodrigo behind the wheel after receiving her driver's license. The singer reminisces over her memories of the song's subject as she drives around a suburban neighborhood.
  • During the clip, Cohen projects old photos and videos on the singer's neck. The director explained to Billboard that Rodrigo wanted to do something that incorporated nostalgia through projections. "I think we really landed on a nice way of telling this little story within the story," he said. "that you see through these projections that are this first-person account of a relationship.

    Cohen added that Rodrigo shot the little mini-films we see on her iPhone, "so those are all real things that we were able to incorporate for the video."
  • Olivia Rodrigo told Apple Music she wrote much of the song "literally crying in my living room." She explained she was driving in her car around her neighborhood, tearfully listening to sad songs. When Rodridgo got home, she thought to herself, "Maybe I'll write a song about this, crying in the car."

    Rodrigo sat down at her piano, played some chords and wrote the song from there. "But it was really, really natural and organic," she said. "Very much me writing in the depth of my emotion. I think that's really cool."
  • "Drivers License" broke the Spotify record for most streams of a song in a single week with over 65 million streams in the week ending January 14, 2021. The record had been held by Bad Bunny's "Dakati" with 44 million streams in the week ending November 12, 2020. It also set Global Amazon Music records for the most streams in a week for a song debut.
  • The car engine we hear revving up in the beginning is Olivia's mom's car.
  • Joshua Bassett released a single a week later titled "Lie Lie Lie," which many fans assumed to be a response track. However, he first penned the tune back in 2019, well before all the alleged romantic drama took place.

    On January 22, 2021, Sabrina Carpenter dropped "Skin," a thinly veiled answer track. She mocks Rodrigo with such lyrics as, "don't drive yourself insane" and "maybe 'blonde' was the only rhyme."
  • Olivia Rodrigo gave her debut television performance of the song on the February 4, 2021 episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Rodrigo performed playing a grand piano accompanied by a string quartet.
  • Though the song itself is a massive success, Rodrigo had less luck with getting her actual driver's license. Speaking to PopCrush Nights, she explained her first driving exam was canceled because of COVID-19 and her second because it clashed with her filming schedule. For her third try she borrowed her mom's car, but it was soon abandoned after the examiner found the horn didn't work. She finally passed her test on the fourth attempt.
  • This song was the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit on February 20, 2021, where a group of guys at a pool hall play the song on the jukebox and get in an in-depth discussion about it ("It's about a girl getting her driver's license, but it's bittersweet because it was something she and her ex always talked about.") By the end of the song, they're all choked up and singing along.

    On May 15, Rodrigo performed the song when she was the musical guest on the show.
  • Kyd The Band (Devin Guisande) made an answer song called "Green Lights," where he takes the perspective of the guy in the song. In his tale, he wasn't home because he went off to college, and he got with the blonde girl because she's more age-appropriate.
  • Olivia Rodrigo released this as the lead single from her debut album, Sour. Many of the other tracks have a similar storyline of the singer talking about her feelings when her ex moves into a new relationship. They represent different perspectives, from this song's heartache, to anger on "Traitor" and resignation on "Happier."
  • Sour landed at the top of the Billboard 200 in its first week. It was the first debut album by a female artist to go straight to #1 since Cardi B's Invasion Of Privacy in 2016.
  • This is one of several tracks on Sour where Rodrigo uses the F-word. Many have assumed the High School Musical actress swears so people don't think she's a Disney kid anymore, but she told Variety it's not a case of her making a calculated decision to be edgy. "I just tend to have a very dirty mouth," Rodrigo said, "and I think that obviously reflects itself in my songwriting."
  • This won Song Of The Year and Push Performance Of The Year at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards. Olivia Rodrigo also took home the prize for Best New Artist.
  • Rodrigo performed "Drivers License" at the Grammy Awards in 2022, where it took home the trophy for Best Pop Solo Performance. It was a big night for Rodrigo: She also won Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album (for Sour) at the ceremony, and abetted BTS in their performance of "Butter."

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