Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” explained

Singer and actress Olivia Rodrigo released her first single, “drivers license,” on Jan. 8. The song quickly racked up streams on all music platforms and reached No. 1 on the Spotify global playlist, breaking the record for most streams in one day of a non-holiday song; in the first week of its release, the song reached 67 million streams on Spotify. Everyone has seemingly fallen in love with the longing and powerful lyrics, as the relatable song of young love and loss has been on repeat for teens all over the world; I haven’t been able to get in my car without queuing the song to play, and i’ve even heard other students in the parking lot at school blasting the same tune. Through all the attention Rodrigo has recently gained, one mystery remains: who is the song about?

Rodrigo’s single quickly became popular on social media platforms, most notably TikTok, where people began dissecting the lyrics and making the connection between the theme of heartbreak and Rodrigo’s suspected romance with her co-star Joshua Bassett. The two met on the set of the Disney + series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series which was released last year on Nov. 12 and seemed to take their on-screen chemistry to the next level. 

In the opening line, Rodrigo sings “I got my driver’s license last week, just like we always talked about,” which reminded fans of an interview Rodrigo did where she talks about how Bassett taught her how to drive for the first time in an In-n-Out parking lot, and that she would always remember that day. 

In the song, Rodrigo describes a relationship between the person she loves and another girl, stating “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.” This line sparked even more speculation because Bassett was seen with fellow Disney star and singer, Sabrina Carpenter, in June of 2020. The two were rumored to be dating shortly after Rodrigo and Bassett supposedly went their separate ways. The line referring to Carpenter’s age makes sense, as she is 21, four years Rodrigo’s senior. Additionally, when Rodrigo first posted a snippet of the song on her Instagram last year, the original lyrics cited the girl as brunette, however they were changed in the official released version. 

Since both Rodrigo and Bassett are notorious songwriters, the line “Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me” raised some eyebrows. Similarly to Rodrigo, Bassett can also be seen posting snippets of original songs on his Instagram, and most of them are suspected to be about his relationship with Rodrigo. 

Bassett is also releasing a song called “Lie, Lie, Lie” on Jan. 14. In an Instagram story post on Jan. 13, Bassett revealed that he wrote the song after “I found out a friend had been lying about me behind my back for a long time,” stating that, “It always sucks to hear that someone you thought you could trust would throw you under the bus when it benefits them.” However, nothing has been confirmed relating to the person who allegedly scorned Bassett. 

Regardless of the inspiration behind the song, Rodrigo perfectly captures the first glimpses of freedom as a teenager where you have the ability to drive around after getting your license and be alone with your feelings — it’s liberating and lonely at the same time. I think Rodrigo’s lyrics and voice in the track play striking similarities to Lorde’s Melodrama album aesthetics and tone, as well as Taylor Swift’s songwriting style and persona. I love listening to this song and being reminded of my favorite female artists, but most of all, I feel comforted knowing I’m not the only one who drives through the suburbs while crying alone to sad music.