One year ago Saturday, back on January 8, 2021, a 17-year-old Disney star named Olivia Rodrigo released a song called “drivers license” — and then proceeded to utterly dominate the pop music world for the rest of the year.
“It was just crazy. Like, my entire life shifted in an instant. It was weird!” Olivia told The New York Times a month-and-a-half after the song’s release, by which time it’d topped charts worldwide.
A year ago, Olivia was best known as the star of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Her song “All I Want” from that latter series had gone viral on TikTok, and she’d teased “drivers license” on the app in 2020, hinting that it was about a “failed relationship.”
After the song’s release, fans on TikTok drove themselves into a frenzy speculating that the person who inspired it was her HSMTMTS co-star Joshua Barrett, and the two were part of a love triangle with “that blonde girl” — actress/singer Sabrina Carpenter. None of that speculation has ever been confirmed.
On January 10, Olivia’s hero, Taylor Swift, noting that “drivers license” was next to her song on iTunes, posted, “I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud.” On January 12, the song broke the Spotify record for the most single-day streams for a non-holiday song, and then set the record for the biggest first week for a song on both Spotify and Amazon Music.
“drivers license” debuted at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, making Olivia the youngest artist ever to achieve that feat. By the end of February, the song had inspired an entire skit on Saturday Night Live, Olivia had turned 18 and was being hailed as the second coming of both Taylor Swift and Alanis Morissette.
But “drivers license” was just the beginning: It was followed by four additional hits from Olivia’s number-one debut album, SOUR, plus three MTV VMA wins, an American Music Award, a People’s Choice Award and seven Grammy nominations.
We can’t wait to see what Olivia does this year.
(Video contains uncensored profanity.)
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