Two weeks ago, Disney Channel’s “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” actress, singer, and songwriter Olivia Rodrigo released her highly anticipated track, “Driver’s License.” Within a week, the heartbreak anthem surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify, making for the biggest weekly streaming debut for any song in US Spotify chart history. Do not get me wrong -- I love the song. I have listened to it enough times to know all of the words, and I may have even shed a tear upon my first listen. But how did Rodrigo manage to increase her star power to the extent that she has? I decided to take a dive into the backstory that allegedly inspired the song, and the drama that has risen as a result of its release.
Now, I want to preface this section with the fact that I did not know who any of the people I am about to write about were until two weeks ago. As a Zillennial who grew up with the original “High School Musical,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series'' just isn’t a show that I feel the need to concern myself with. Anyways, the following information has been gathered from word of mouth, social media, and personal research: Olivia Rodrigo used to “hang out” with HSMTS star Joshua Bassett, and part of their time together was spent learning how to drive, as Rodrigo had yet to get her license. Rodrigo and Bassett split up, and around the same time, Bassett had started “hanging out” with Sabrina Carpenter, another actress in the current Disney Channel circle. Rodrigo gets her license post-(alleged)-breakup, Bassett is with Carpenter, and Rodrigo is heartbroken, and thus, “Driver’s License” was born. (Please, don’t quote me on this. I am, by no means, an expert on the tea.)
Here’s a Tik Tok explaining the ~drama~ better than I ever could:
Rodrigo’s song, more than anything, is about dealing with a breakup that you do not want to accept as reality. It is a universal human experience. Getting broken up with sucks. Honestly, breaking up with someone sucks, too. It's all just a giant bowl of suck. The whole idea of meeting someone, falling in love with them, and then becoming strangers again in the span of a sentence is absolutely brutal. Sometimes, the only way we know how to deal with our emotions is to put them into words. Rodrigo’s lyrics are raw and authentic, and everything -- from the sounds of the car door shutting accompanied by “beeping” noises and the soft piano with low-key production -- makes “Driver’s License” an objectively good song.
Here is where the drama enters the chat: Rodrigo has one lyric that is clearly about Carpenter: “You’re probably with that blonde girl / The one who always made me doubt / She’s so much older than me / She’s everything I’m insecure about”
And yesterday, only two weeks after “Driver’s License” debut, Carpenter responded to those lyrics with a track called “Skin.” It has lyrics: “You can try / To get under my, under my, under my skin / While he’s on mine / Yeah, all on my, all on my, all on my skin” and “Maybe you didn’t mean it / Maybe ‘blonde’ was the only rhyme”
Stan Twitter has been debating whether or not Carpenter was in the right to respond to Rodrigo, and personally, I think that it was not in Carpenter’s place to release a “diss” track.
On a drama-level, Rodrigo’s song does not have anything to do with Carpenter; it is merely about her post-breakup feelings towards Bassett. Sure, she mentions Carpenter, but Carpenter is by no means the main focus of the song. Plus, Rodrigo is a minor and it feels a little bit immature for (not a minor) Carpenter to take “Driver’s License” as a personal attack.
On a musicality-level, Rodrigo’s lyrics about Carpenter were not, in any way, offensive. In four lyrics, Rodrigo pretty much expressed how she looks up to Carpenter. So why did Carpenter respond so harshly with a full length song specifically about the fact that she sleeps with Bassett? “Skin” is not that great of a track. It sounds like any other song that plays in Forever 21 as you grab a shirt that you think is cute only to realize that it has a taco drawn on the back. It is clear that it was quickly thrown together; it sounds like any other generic, formulaic pop song.
Interestingly enough, Rodrigo is signed to Interscope Records and Carpenter recently signed to Island Records -- both subsidiaries of Universal Music Group. Was this all a publicity stunt? Did Carpenter’s team take the opportunity to ride the “Driver’s License” wave, even if it meant stirring the pot? With such a quick turnaround time, there’s no doubt that both artist’s teams were aware of “Skin’s” release.
Regardless of whether or not this was an arranged drama-fest, I hate seeing two girls fight over a boy. In my opinion, he is not worth it. What man is, anyways?