The melodies of a broken heart : Olivia Rodrigos rise to stardom


The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pop Star Olivia Rodrigo posing with the President of the United States promoting Vaccines in teens.

Heath Rice, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The 18-year-old star Olivia Rodrigo began her career like many singers before her – on Disney Channel. 

Rodrigo, who was featured on the hit show “Bizaardvark” in 2016 and “High School Musical the Musical”, has since moved onto music full-time. During quarantine, her songs were an astounding success and her album, “Sour,” sold 2.35 million copies. 

Her hit song “driver’s license,” which was released on Jan. 8,  was “#1 on the Australian and Global Top 50 charts with north of 50 million streams,” according to ABC news

Rodrigo pours emotion and the teenage experience into every one of her songs. On her website, she gave an explanation of her progress as a singer. “I spent most of the quarantine writing songs in my living room and producing them in a garage, including ‘drivers license,’” she said. “It was always a really special song to me but I never expected the response it got.”

Her music has a way of extracting specific emotions from her audience. Her hit song “driver’s license” creates sadness and emptiness within the listener, recreating a tragic memory or failed relationship.

“Sour” provides a feeling of isolation as she explains her breakup experience, which many fans can relate to. It is a refreshing twist to have songs about teenage rage and tragedy actually written by a teenager.                     

She breaks the age barrier from most popular artists, and this makes her music generate more genuine reactions and, in return, has a more powerful impact on listeners.

Her song “brutal” talks about the struggles of a teenager and the impact of anxiety and fear on her music career. In her lyrics she writes, “I’m anxious and nothing can help, And I wish I’d done this before, And I wish people liked me more.” This was a lyric that filled the hearts of listeners who felt similarly throughout their teenage years.

“Sour” is filled with a variety of songs, varying from fast and angry to sad and melodic. Rodrigo’s ability to manipulate different styles to create an emotion-filled album is not a small feat.

Many of her fans believe that her songs are inspired by her relationship with ex-boyfriend Joshua Bassett. Her song “traitor” revolves around the feeling of betrayal after an ex-boyfriend pursued his girl best friend only weeks after their breakup. 

This is very similar to Bassett’s pursuit of Disney star Sabrina Carpenter only weeks after Rodrigo’s alleged breakup. Small details in her work have caused fans to speculate the pain in these songs is not just writing, but rather raw and painful memories for Rodrigo. 

Many music lovers find her uncensored lyrics to be refreshing and honest. The truth and detail create a relationship between the listener and Rodrigo, allowing for it to be so much more than a song. 

Just like other all-stars, her rise to fame was not without controversy and drama. Some people believe that she’s a repeat of artists from the past. 

Her disney star to pop sensation isn’t a new story. PV senior Heaven gave her opinion on Rodrigo, “She is a great artist, but certainly not of origin. I’m not claiming she’s stolen content or ideas, rather, she’s just a repeat of what society had in the past. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus are examples of past artists who have had similar success as Olivia” she stated. 

Some music critics and even superstars have claimed that Rodrigo’s music is a direct copy with nothing original about it. Many stars accused Rodrigo of plagiarizing music from past musicians. Her song “brutal” was accused of being similar to the 1978 rock song “Pump it Up” by Elvis Costello. 

Costello responded to the plagiarism comments in a positive way, stating in a tweet, “This is fine by me Billy, It’s how rock and roll works. You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy. That’s what I did,” he said.

Rodrigo herself responded to the controversy by saying that “nothing in music is ever new.” Many stars have backed up this argument, understanding that music is built on one another – always improving to fit into what is popular for an ever-changing society.

These complications have not slowed down the singer one bit, as she still plans on creating new songs for teens around the globe.

Her talent as a songwriter is only rivaled by her beautiful singing ability. Her angry and aggressive tone in “brutal” is quickly drenched away by the quiet “deja vu” and “1 step forward, 3 steps back.” 

In interviews with the press, Rodrigo has revealed she would rather be a songwriter than a pop star, with her passion being rooted in writing the music, not performing it. Even though Rodrigo said this, her fans still await a second album sung by her. Her unique blend of tragedy and clever lyrics have made her a sensation for young audiences.

Junior Serenity Johanson gave her opinions on Rodrigo’s music. “She connects with a lot of girls because the things she describes many girls have gone through. A heartbreak can lead to many emotional and physical things. Like in her song, “enough for you” she explains how she changed herself to better her partner and in the end lost herself.”

Rodrigo seems to have a bright future ahead of her, and millions of fans can hardly wait to see what is next. She has overcome countless mishaps and boundaries and truly proven “it’s brutal out here.”