Although we are only in January, this year has been pretty eventful already, in good and bad ways. One of the most exciting events that has taken place so far was the release of Olivia Rodrigo’s record breaking single, “drivers license.” Olivia Rodrigo co-stars as one of the leads in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. The song was released on January 8th and took the world by storm almost immediately. Only one week after Rodrigo released the song, it was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and reached 76.1 million streams. Rodrigo accomplished something phenomenal. I feel immense pride for her and this huge step in her career. Although it has not been confirmed by Rodrigo, many speculate that her ballad is about Joshua Bassett, her co-star in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. It is believed that Bassett split with Rodrigo and is now pursuing a relationship with Sabrina Carpenter, another Disney star, based on the amount of times Bassett and Carpenter have been seen with each other. Given the noticeable few lines in “drivers license” about the girl she describes her love left her for, and the way that description matches Carpenter’s appearance, many speculate that this is true.
Of course the story doesn’t end there. One week after the release of “drivers license,” Bassett released his own single titled “Lie Lie Lie.” The song interestingly revolves around a person in his life who has been spreading false rumors about him (ring a bell?). Many believe that Bassett wrote (or rewrote) this song for Rodrigo, given that he released a clip of it in July 2020. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more intense, Carpenter releases her own single, titled “Skin” on January 22nd. In a not so subtle way, she directs this song towards someone (who can guess who it may be about at this point) and tells them that they cannot affect her no matter what they do. You have no idea how shocked I was when I listened to it. I was now able to string together many thoughts after the final song was released. Of all three songs, I personally liked “drivers license” best as a song, both musically and lyrically.
First off, a disclaimer: much of this information has been deduced and gathered from social media and rumors. It could be that much of the speculation surrounding Rodrigo, Bassett, and Carpenter’s love triangle is not correct. Given that fact, it also well may be that all of this information is true. We do not know for now, but we will see what the future holds. Secondly, I’d like to say that I think it’s completely fine for an artist to use music as a way of expressing what they are feeling and what is happening to them at a particular moment of their life.
What I do not condone is an artist “clapping back” to another artist through music. Music should be beautiful, touching, and a place for vulnerability. Though it is unknown to whom Bassett or Carpenter directs their songs to, I do not think it is ok for them to direct their songs to Rodrigo in response to “drivers license.” Bassett’s song, though it has limited repetitive lyrics, seems to have a clear idea of who he’s singing to. He refers to this mysterious person as “darling” which may imply he’s singing to someone he may have had romantic interests in and doesn’t anymore (who could that be?) He sings “I know what you say about me/Oh, you can’t get me off of your mind.” That sounds very clearly like a jab at Rodrigo given that she is still mourning a breakup. Get over yourself Bassett, the girl’s been through a break up, of course she can write a song about it. A song in response titled “Lie Lie Lie” is not fooling anyone. It’s not ok for Bassett to have written or intentionally released this song so soon after “drivers license.”
And "Skin" does this in an even less subtle way. Though Rodrigo aims most of her song at the man who has broken her heart, she does not insult the woman he has run off to be with or belittle her at any point in “drivers license.” Fans speculate she mentions Carpenter by referring to her as “that blonde girl who always made me doubt/She’s everything I’m insecure about.” In Carpenter’s song, “Skin” she sings how “Maybe you didn’t mean it/Maybe blonde was the only rhyme” If this is to respond to “drivers license,” it is clear that Carpenter feels attacked and is responding to Rodrigo. Carpenter goes on to say “But you’ve been tellin’ your side/So I’ll be tellin’ mine” which also sounds like a response. She later on in the song sings: “Don’t drive yourself insane" — now this was the line that did it for me. It seems very difficult to think that this song was meant for anyone other than Olivia Rodrigo.
I really have sympathy for Carpenter. Given the rumors, I know she has been getting a lot of hate from fans and people online. That is unfair to her. She should not be getting the hate because of Bassett’s actions and decisions. I know Bassett is also entitled to his own decisions, but it seems like a lot of the hate is being directed at Carpenter instead. No one should be getting any hate here. Some relationships work and some don’t, and that is a natural part of life. But sorry Carpenter, it is not ok to write a song to bash Rodrigo, because she too has done nothing wrong. I think this says a lot about our society and how women tend to harbor feelings towards the other woman, rather than the man at fault during a break up. I know Carpenter has a long way to go, and I wish her the best of luck and hope she can grow emotionally.
But perhaps we have this all wrong. Perhaps “drivers license” was not meant for Bassett, or “Lie Lie Lie” was not meant for Rodrigo, and “Skin” was not meant for Rodrigo. Perhaps this was all an organized publicity stunt to place the young actors and musicians under the spotlight! We may never know. What we do know is that we have witnessed a breakthrough in music history with another record breaking single, an accomplishment that deserves the praise and hype. I wish the best of luck for the three artists, and their own personal journeys.