‘That Blonde Girl’ Speaks, and Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Drivers License’ Goes Ultra-viral
I was first introduced to Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” when I heard it in a TikTok video, which was followed almost immediately by another TikTok using it, and quickly after that a TikTok in which someone asked, “What is this song I keep hearing all over TikTok?”
“I got my driver's license last week / Just like we always talked about,” the lyrics begin. “'Cause you were so excited for me / To finally drive up to your house / But today I drove through the suburbs / Crying 'cause you weren't around.”
That day I learned every last detail about Rodrigo; her rumored ex-boyfriend and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett; and his rumored new girlfriend, Sabrina Carpenter (who is said to be “that blonde girl” referred to in the song’s lyrics). Carpenter just came out with a single of her own, “Skin,” which appears to be a response to “Drivers License,” and already has over one million views on YouTube. The comments on the video are all about the supposed love triangle, with one particularly salient one reading, “there is NO WAY joshua can be worth all this beef.”
But by now the song is not really about Bassett at all. It has surpassed its initial purpose, and its massive popularity has itself inspired a new trend that you could call the “cover ‘Drivers License’ challenge.”
None other than James Charles hired a producer and audio mixer to release his own version of the track—a surprising move from someone whose only other well-known singing credits are...this video.
Perhaps even weirder: This tweet from TikTokker Tayler Holder, who is maybe a singer? In the same way Lil Huddy is now a singer?
I just did a short cover of driver’s license! Should I drop it on TikTok?— Tayler Holder (@TaylerHolder) January 21, 2021
Any “Drivers License” tie-in almost guarantees viral success. It’s not just the gossip-y backstory, Rodrigo’s existing fame, Taylor Swift’s co-sign, or the history-making debut at the top of the Billboard 100 chart that created this unstoppably snowballing phenomenon. More than anything, maybe, it’s that it is perfect for TikTok. The song has a clear, emotional element that can easily be dramatized—key for any good trend on the app. It has spawned dances, POVs for how Bassett may have felt listening to the song for the first time, even women in happy relationships provoking beef with their partners because they want to feel included. But the trend rapidly became less about the song itself and more about being on TikTok, experiencing the song, and sharing your experience of suddenly caring about the love lives of people you had previously never heard of. Its popularity was, well, its popularity.
This is all terrific news for Rodrigo. The High School Musical: The Musical: The Series actress catapulted herself out of her “Disney star” box right into a slot next to artists like Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, and Lorde—who might be wise to debut their own “Drivers License” covers.