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Olivia Rodrigo’s New Single Doubles as a Winter Heartbreak Anthem and the Newest Chapter in Disney Love Triangle Drama

Last winter, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series star Olivia Rodrigo topped charts with her self-written single, “All I Want.” A centerpiece in the show’s strong soundtrack, “All I Want” is a climatic ballad about Rodrigo’s character, Nini, and the complicated feelings she experiences towards her on-and-off again boyfriend, Ricky Bowen, who is portrayed by actor and songwriter Joshua Bassett. While the song was originally intended to simply compliment the story arc of the Disney + series, it resonated deeply with scores of teenage girls, who could relate to many of the song’s lyrics and themes. Thus, the song became something of an anthem for those going through romance troubles of their own, wondering if a desire for “a love that lasts” is “too much to ask.”

This January, Rodrigo's back with another smash hit, but this time, it's not discussing the romance between Rodrigo and Bassett's characters; it's about their offscreen relationship. The song, entitled “drivers license,” has garnered extraordinarily high praise and already skyrocketed to the top of the iTunes charts, ahead of long-established artists like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd. And while the track, much like “All I Want,” has caught traction with young girls for its relatability, its chilling delivery from the depths of Rodrigo’s personal heartbreak is equally as pivotal in the song’s overnight success.

To digest just how monumental “drivers license” is, let’s start with some backstory. 

Rodrigo and Bassett first started working closely together in February 2019 on the set of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and myriad sources, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage seem to suggest that the pair hit it off almost immediately. Rodrigo herself has even hinted at her offscreen feelings for Bassett through unreleased songs she has written and posted on social media. One melody in particular references her love for a “brown-eyed boy” with “messy hair” who happens to double as her “best friend” and the one she’d “give her heart to.” Rodrigo has also been spotted wearing Bassett’s hoodies and has made numerous social posts where she referred to Bassett as “babe” and expressed how proud she was of him for his achievements. And don’t even get me started on the natural chemistry that exists between the two in their roles as Nini and Ricky. 

The evidence is all there. Regardless of the specific logistics of their relationship, it’s safe to say that Rodrigo and Bassett were a little bit more than friends.

Now, here's where things get interesting: rumors suggest that Bassett was supposed to be "waiting" until Rodrigo's eighteenth birthday this upcoming February for the two to officially be together, as Bassett is currently 20 and didn't want to date Rodrigo while she is a minor. Whether there is specific truth to this remains unknown, but the story is one that has floated around news outlets and social media for some time.

However, during this supposed waiting period between the two, Bassett has been spotted with Disney star and singer Sabrina Carpenter on numerous occasions over the past few months. While a relationship between Bassett and Carpenter has never been officially confirmed, their time together is not at all private, from several paparazzi shots of their cozy lunch dates and infamous Tik Tok videos of the duo dressed up as Sharkboy and Lavagirl on Halloween unveiling their closeness. Naturally, this would come as a slap in the face to Rodrigo, who has openly demonstrated her affection for Bassett.

How does this all connect to the song itself?

Rodrigo does not waste time in directly relating the lyrics of “drivers license” to the situation involving her, Bassett, and Carpenter. In the song’s very first verse, Rodrigo focuses on her leading motif, diving into the discussion of obtaining a driver’s license and how excited she was to drive to the house of the song’s subject. She shares that her and the subject “always talked about'' the day where she would receive her license, but when that day came, a connection between the two had faded out. Rodrigo describes driving through the suburbs in which the subject resides, “crying ‘cause you weren’t around.”

Considering their past, we can naturally assume that this subject is Bassett, but there is even more compelling evidence that would connect Bassett as the song’s focus: per Rodrigo herself, Bassett was the one who taught her how to drive. In a video from last year, Rodrigo describes her experience with Bassett’s driving lessons. “We celebrated [after learning that the song they wrote together would be used in the HSM series] and we went to In-N-Out, and I couldn’t drive actually. I was 16, but I didn’t have my permit,” she explained, adding that, “And so, he took me in his car, and we drove around the In-N-Out parking lot, and that was my first time driving.” Through this piece of information, the song’s consistent references to driving suddenly make a lot more sense.

Not convinced yet? The second verse kicks the discussion of Rodrigo’s personal life up another notch with clear allusions to Carpenter. “And you’re probably with that blonde girl who always made me doubt,” Rodrigo sings here, following the lyric with, “She’s so much older than me. She’s everything I’m insecure about.” The blonde-haired Carpenter, who is four years Rodrigo’s senior, clearly fits the description of the girl in consideration. 

The icing on the cake is the song’s gut-wrenching bridge, where Rodrigo sings, “Red lights, stop signs. I still see your face in the white cars.” Bassett drives a white car, naturally prompting this reference to Rodrigo searching for him in every white vehicle she passes. These not-so-subtle hints are sprinkled throughout the entirety of the song and make it perfectly clear that Rodrigo is talking about the feelings of heartbreak she has harbored towards Bassett.

So, aside from the love triangle thing, why is this song such a big deal?

In less than a week, “drivers license” has absolutely dominated global charts, soaring to number one worldwide on nearly every music platform. The track also has critics and fans alike drawing comparisons between Rodrigo and artists such as Taylor Swift and Lorde, who have amassed loyal followings for their own displays of lyrical craft. And, of course, in true social media fashion, “drivers license” has sparked several Tik Tok trends, including videos lip-syncing the bridge’s lyrics and brief edits of fictional pairings and real life love triangles whose relationship tribulations also mirror those of Rodrigo, Bassett, and Carpenter. Between her streaming success and dramatic increase in social media following, it seems clear that Rodrigo is something of a rising star, with “drivers license” serving as an iconic breakout single much akin to tracks like Ariana Grande’s “The Way” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.”

In all, “drivers license” represents a cultural shift on myriad levels. Firstly, it is a song clearly influenced by Rodrigo’s personal experiences, which offers the intense emotion and authenticity that our modern music tends to lack from time-to-time. It’s also an opportunity for Rodrigo to flaunt her lyrical prowess, in which she effortlessly belts out lines that are incredibly complex and moving for anyone in the music industry, let alone a seventeen-year-old. And finally, the lyrics in Rodrigo’s song directly parallel publicly known information about her personal relationship, almost as if Rodrigo doesn’t even want to make her point subtly, a gutsy move for any artist, a dance in authenticity and realness with her audience. In the past five years, it would honestly be difficult to find another female artist who has presented such a strong breakout debut, and that alone is what makes this song so special.

Keep streaming “drivers license,” and stay tuned for Bassett’s new song this Friday, entitled “Lie Lie Lie.” The promotional photos feature Bassett and an unidentifiable girl sitting in a car, with the picture featuring the same violet and magenta hues native to the “drivers license” music video. On top of it all, Bassett announced his upcoming release for this song on the same evening that Rodrigo dropped her own song, almost indicating a clear connection between the two singles.

Could it all be a coincidence? Sure. But with how intricate and complex this entire love triangle is, I’m going to venture to say that nothing here is truly accidental.

Sidney Ropp

Illinois State '24

Sidney is a sophomore Legal Studies student at Illinois State University, where she writes for both her collegiate chapter and the national Her Campus staff. She is deeply passionate about health, wellness, dietetics, and fashion. Sidney is so excited to be a part of Her Campus and have the opportunity to share her interests with the campus community!
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