Olivia Rodrigo is, undeniably, the breakout artist of 2021. At only 18 years old, she has earned the success other artists could only dream of. Olivia’s debut can be compared to musicians such as Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Whitney Houston.
Music critics and journalists alike have dubbed her as the voice of Gen-Z. Her music has brought young listeners a coming-of-age story that we haven’t seen since the likes of Lorde and Taylor Swift. And, as half Filipino, she is one of many artists who represent the blossoming diversity in the world of music today.
Her career first boomed in 2016 when she was cast in the Disney Channel TV series, Bizaardvark. She starred alongside Madison Hu, DeVore Ledridge and Jake Paul. (Yes, that Jake Paul.) The show, which followed Rodrigo and Hu’s characters as they made a popular web series, lasted three seasons until it ended in 2019.
Shortly after, Olivia starred in the Disney+ mockumentary series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. While filming, she began a relationship with her co-star, Joshua Bassett. It does feel important to note that Olivia was only 16 when they started dating while Joshua was 19. But, like most teen romances, the two broke up a year later. While no one should have to suffer through heartbreak, this split gave Olivia the fuel she needed to take her career to the next level.
Her debut single, "drivers license," started the new year in January of 2021 after Olivia had been teasing the record for months prior. The song was inspired by her post-breakup drama involving Bassett and his new girlfriend, Sabrina Carpenter. But it didn’t take long for the song to break from its ties to her ex-boyfriend and evolve into a symbol of Olivia and the string of success coming her way.
Olivia became the youngest person to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 when "drivers license" jumped in at number one. The record also made her the second female artist to have her debut single start at number one after Carrie Underwood in 2005. Many more records were broken with the song; the biggest first week of a song for Spotify and Amazon Music, the Spotify record for mostly daily streams for a non-holiday song (which she broke twice) and the highest global weekly streaming total for a female artist.
Three months later, Olivia announced the release of her second single "deja vu." The song continued with the themes of "drivers license" but moved away from the sad stage of a breakup. It debuted at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, making Olivia the first artist to have their first two releases debut on the chart’s Top 10. With two hit singles under her belt, it was natural for Olivia and her team to follow the next step of a rookie artist’s career. With the release of "deja vu," her debut album Sour was announced.
Before Sour could drop, however, Olivia released her next single, "good 4 u." While her other two songs were aligned with the bedroom pop genre, "good 4 u" blends teen pop, grunge and pop-rock to exhibit the anger of a brokenhearted girl. It continued Olivia’s streak of Hot 100 debuts by topping at number one with its release.
A week later, Sour was released into the world. As expected, it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. She paired the album with a live stream concert, ‘Sour Prom,’ that used prom aesthetics to emphasize the teen angst that filled the album.
Olivia’s success has been made clear as the year comes to a close. She has earned herself seven Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Song of the Year. Spotify’s 2021 addition to their annual ‘Spotify Wrapped’ revealed Olivia Rodrigo as their ninth top artist globally. "drivers license" was their most listened to song across the world, with "good 4 u" following close by at number four. Sour became the top album of 2021, as well. She recently announced that she will go embark on a North American and European tour beginning April 2022.
It’s clear that Olivia is a force to be reckoned with, and she’s only just started. But, before we ponder the future, it’s important to appreciate all that she’s done so far.