Like a foretold conclusion, when the nominations for the 64th Grammys came, Olivia Rodrigo received seven nominations including all four big categories and best new artist. With these nominations, she is the 13th artist to be nominated in all of the big four categories in a single year. If she were to win all of the big four categories, she would be the second woman to win all of these categories and the third artist to do this overall.
The first female artist who won all the big four categories has several similarities with Olivia Rodrigo. Billie Eilish at 18 was also nominated for seven Grammys, including the big four, with her first album. Both of these artists are growing up as part of the upcoming generation. Their fast critical acclaim also speaks to what I would call the “Young Pop Star Phenomenon,” where young female artists are becoming part of the center of the music industry.
For the last two years, Olivia Rodrigo played Nini Salazar-Roberts on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. However, that went on the back burner as she released Driver’s License, which broke countless streaming records and established her as a household name in the music industry. Her rise to fame happened quickly but each part of this rise came at different times in the past year when the world was rapidly changing. It went from before-covid when she wasn’t as famous, to quarantine when she became even more famous, to the level where she is now–a seven-time debut nominee in the still-changing landscape of post-pandemic life.
These twists and turns might have proven fatal for any other musician, but for her, they became the perfect launching pad for her music because it spoke to the world’s need for connection to other people. Her first single, Driver’s License, was then the gut punch that the world was looking for because it was a song about heartbreak. In a year where there was an immense sadness, this was a form of sadness that happens regularly, and this reminded people that life would continue. That was the knowledge that helped launch Olivia Rodrigo even further than many would think.
This connection that was formed between her audience and her music made the media latch onto Olivia Rodrigo. The media started to report on her more, with paparazzi taking photos of her as she went to her events or just completing everyday activities. She went from being one of a bunch of child actors to being “the next big thing,” something the media loves writing about. Rodrigo’s voice also got attention as another glimpse into what the upcoming generation cares about and feels.
This also is similar to the rise of Billie Eilish, because Eilish, too, was and is promoted in the media as a voice of the incoming generation. As the media learns to adapt to young people making their mark on their world, the media turns to musicians like Eilish and Rodrigo to try to understand their new audience. Rodrigo’s freshness and youthful relatability are contagious, which has always been the truest mark of the “Young Pop Star Phenomenon.”
Though the media and the general public love the next big thing, when the young pop star becomes more a part of the mainstream, the media goes from praising everything they do to finding flaws within the musician and their work. At first, Olivia Rodrigo was hailed as the next great songwriter but soon after her album came out, the media started comparing her work to older artists and then accusing Rodrigo of copying their work. By saying that Rodrigo copied older work, the media tried to make her fall from grace because even though in the end this didn’t occur, as much as the media loves to see someone rise, they also love to watch someone fall.
This love is coupled with the music industry’s (and really the entertainment industry as a whole) double standards and the fact that when you are so successful so young the industry expects you to continue to have that kind of success even though you are still figuring yourself out. This microscope that the media and the greater world have put young pop stars under is another part of the “Young Pop Star Phenomenon.” Except it needs to stop.
While we will never know these pop stars as well as their friends and family do, we must take care of them as much as a fan or a journalist can. We must remember that they are people, they are young, and it’s okay for them to be human. The “Young Pop Star Phenomenon” isn’t going away anytime soon but it shouldn’t mean that a fall from grace is just par for the course for these young musicians, young women. Artists are flawed and so are we, which is why I’ll be playing Sour by Olivia Rodrigo for a long time.