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On Friday, 17-year-old singer and actress Olivia Rodrigo made her solo debut with the single “Drivers License,” a teenage-heartbreak anthem that’s made major waves online.
It’s a stunning pop debut that seems to signal a star in the making, with the song hitting number one on Apple Music, Spotify’s US and Global charts, and iTunes charts. It’s not the first time that Rodrigo’s music has been noticed. Her song “All I Want,” which she wrote for her “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (“HSMTMTS”) character Nini, hit number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Drivers License,” however, is a sensation — a perfect storm of cutting songwriting and gossip fuel. Amid the single’s debut, many are speculating that the song’s lyrics are about Rodrigo’s former “HSMTMTS” co-star Joshua Bassett.
TikTok users have latched onto the song, making videos speculating about its meaning, praising its lyricism, and creating memes.
Rodrigo and Basset were co-stars on ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” was one of Disney+’s launch titles, drawing on Disney Channel’s seminal original movie “High School Musical.” However, the series isn’t a sequel to the movie trilogy — rather, it takes place in our universe, in which a group of students who attend the ‘real’ East High (where “High School Musical” was filmed) in Salt Lake City, Utah put on a production of “High School Musical.”
Rodrigo and Basset star as Nini and Ricky, the series leads who end up getting cast as Gabriella and Troy, the romantic leads in “High School Musical.” Although their characters start as exes on bad terms, they become closer over the course of the show.
Rodrigo and Bassett each penned songs for the series: Rodrigo’s heart-wrenching anthem “All I Want” was the show’s breakout hit and arguably a “Drivers License” predecessor, fueling TikTok memes and earning Rodrigo her first placement on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Rodrigo and Bassett also collaborated to write the song “Just for a Moment,” which their characters Nini and Ricky sang in the penultimate episode of the first season.
Internet sleuths think they’ve put pieces together to decipher what the song is about
Relationships among co-stars is the norm in the “High School Musical” cinematic universe (see: the romance between Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron, who played Gabriella and Troy in the original film and its sequels). Now, some people are speculating that Rodrigo, 17, and Bassett, 20, were romantically involved in real life.
Neither Bassett nor Rodrigo has confirmed a relationship, but fans think they’ve uncovered one by analyzing details of “Drivers License” and its accompanying artwork. The theories are going viral on TikTok.
In “Drivers License,” Rodrigo, who is a brunette, references a “blonde girl,” singing: “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.”
Fans believe she’s referring to fellow Disney Channel star Sabrina Carpenter, 21, who is rumored to currently be in a relationship with Bassett. Carpenter and Bassett have appeared together in videos on each other’s TikTok pages. Representatives for Bassett, Carpenter, and Rodrigo did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
dream a dream u little bleep ##sharkboyandlavagirl @sabrinacarpenter
However, in an original draft of the song Rodrigo shared on Instagram in July, the lyric referred to a “brunette girl” instead.
Rodrigo has previously suggested that the song comes with a personal message. As Vulture reported, Rodrigo posted a TikTok in August of her listening to her song “All I Want,” writing, “you think u can hurt my feelings? i wrote this song.” In the caption, she wrote, “and that’s on failed relationships.” Rodrigo’s character sang “All I Want” for Bassett’s character in “HSMTMTS.”
and that’s on failed relationships
In the chorus of the song, Rodrigo sings, “Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me / ’cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street.” As People reported, Bassett previously released a song on Instagram called “Not Right Now,” that listeners have speculated may be about waiting to pursue a crush.
Fans believe Bassett may have already responded to the song. The day after “Drivers License” was released, Bassett announced that his single, “LIE LIE LIE,” was coming out on January 14.
‘Drivers License’ has taken over TikTok, from memes about Taylor Swift to mental breakdowns
The runaway success of “Drivers License” is due in no small part to the song’s popularity on TikTok.
Between the sad girl appeal of “Drivers License” that echoes Gen Z favorites like Lorde and Billie Eilish, the celebrity love triangle narrative associated with it, and the song’s cinematic third verse, it’s no surprise that Rodrigo’s hit has been used as the soundtrack to more than 300,000 videos on the platform.
Popular TikTokers like Spencer (@spencewuah), who has more than 8 million followers, have made TikToks reacting to the song’s subject or making fun of the fact that they listened to it all day.
The celebrity drama appeal of “Drivers License” has also been examined by TikTok, including Bassett’s endorsement of the song on his Instagram story. Since Taylor Swift has shown her support for Rodrigo and “Drivers License,” one TikTok user imagined how Swift’s exes would promote her songs that are rumored to be about them on their social media pages.
Some listeners reacted to that fact that if “Drivers License” had been released while they were experiencing heartbreak, it would have made them even more depressed.
Other memes about “Drivers License” have gone viral, like one where a girl dramatically acts out the narrative of driving past Rodrigo’s ex’s street.
Some TikToks have used the instrumentation of “Drivers License” to produce original songs or snippets, like one from the point of view of the guy Rodrigo is singing about.
And a few older TikTok users have commented on the fact that they’re in their mid-to-late twenties getting invested in Rodrigo’s love life.
Not only has “Drivers License” proved to be a radio hit that resonates with listeners, but its appeal has translated to dozens of TikTok genres and made it an early 2021 cultural touchstone.