The rise of Olivia Rodrigo: From Disney star to licensed “driver” with “deja vu”

Amanda M. Castro, Managing Editor

Although she has been in the public eye since 2015, 18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo’s rise to superstardom came later in her career. Rodrigo, who starred as Paige in the Disney Channel comedy “Bizaardvark” and Nini in the Disney Plus series “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” said she has always wanted a career in music, proving this with numerous posts of herself singing original songs on Instagram. The California native’s “drivers license” became the most streamed song on Spotify in a single week since its release earlier this year, and it lasted eight weeks at the top of the Billboard 100.

Her meteoric growth has undoubtedly been helped by social media, with TikTok users assisting in pushing “drivers license” to 130 million streams within its first week. Social media is an important outlet for young pop stars, such as Rodrigo, to use to support their work. Users posting videos of musicians and their songs have made it easier than ever for stars to enter into the industry, paving the way for a new path to success, which Rodrigo welcomed with “drivers license.”

Rodrigo is no stranger to TikTok song success. In 2020, her song “All I Want,” written for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” quickly went viral on the video-sharing platform, setting her up for success on the app.

In addition to becoming a viral sound on TikTok, “driver’s license” was also analyzed by fans, who believed that the song was written about “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” co-star Joshua Bassett and his relationship with fellow-Disney alum Sabrina Carpenter.

A week later, Bassett responded with his own single, “Lie Lie Lie,” which was dissected and considered a retort by fans, who also believe the older, blonde girl mentioned in Rodrigo’s lyrics is Carpenter, Bassett’s rumored girlfriend. Carpenter, who is blonde-haired and four years Rodrigo’s senior, released “Skin,” a song that contained lyrics directly relating to “driver’s license.”

Despite this drama, Rodrigo’s fans weren’t the only people to celebrate the release of the song; celebrities also gave Rodrigo praise. Kylie Jenner, Noah Centineo, Charli D’Amelio, Lucy Hale, Hailey Bieber, the Jonas Brothers and a slew of other celebrities shared her album on their Instagram stories, including Rodrigo’s biggest inspiration, Taylor Swift, who called Rodrigo her “baby” on Instagram.

Rodrigo, like many of her peers, regularly streams her life on social media. Her presence on such platforms helps her become closer to her audience in comparison to an older Disney alum; they get to see how a similarly aged actress lives her life.

Her debut single also earned a double-platinum certification and charted at number one in a number of countries, some for several weeks. Her lyrics, full of rawness and emotion, have captivated fans all over the world, setting the stage for a dazzling future. Rodrigo’s mainstream popularity has only improved since her debut at the age of 17 and her continued success at 18.

On April 1, Rodrigo released another single, “deja vu,” which has already broken another collection of records and has also become a viral sound on TikTok, confirming that her debut album titled “SOUR” would be released on May 21.

Rodrigo and her peers are well aware of the many paths to pop superstardom, including TikTok. To fans, Rodrigo is on the cusp of becoming what Taylor Swift is to Millennials – a breakup song icon. Despite the fact that her music career is only in its early stages, her success is proving that she will become the next Disney-originated music star.

Fans can purchase Rodrigo’s merchandise on her website and can watch season one of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” and stream season two starting on May 14 on Disney Plus.