When Olivia Rodrigo announced her second single, ‘deja vu’, many were unsure if she’d be able to replicate the success of her multi-week number one song ‘drivers license’ at the beginning of the year. Many had written her off as as a one-hit-wonder. That conclusion couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even before ‘drivers license’, Rodrigo had a hit song titled ‘All I Want’. The song had been making its way through TikTok. Unfortunately, the song’s proximity to Disney (through ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series), hurt its chances of reaching astronomical levels of popularity. After the release of a debut song like ‘drivers license’, the pressure to deliver again would be at an all-time high. With ‘deja vu’, not only does Rodrigo deliver, but she also paves a way for her to be one of the biggest pop artists of the new generation.
The Birth of TikTok Pop
Over the last two years, there’s been an influx of artists catching their big break on TikTok. We saw it last year with the increased popularity of pop music heavyweight Dua Lipa. Her song ‘Don’t Start Now’ was widely acclaimed when it was first released. But it wasn’t until users on TikTok began using the song in videos that it was a huge commercial success. Olivia Rodrigo had a similar trajectory with her song ‘All I Want’. The initial release was bogged down by the fact it was officially billed as a song for a Disney TV series, but the song found a second life on TikTok.
Artists (and record companies) are beginning to see that TikTok is better than any billboard or press interview. If the song begins to gain steam on TikTok, more users will begin to use it. This leads them to then buy/stream the song after hearing it in viral videos. When teasing her new ‘deja vu’, Rodrigo even previewed it on TikTok. Her career is currently blossoming not only because of her talent, but also the way we consumed music has changed.
Industry drama is a common occurrence within music. But very seldom do fans get to hear dramatic exchanges between two artists within the pop genre. With hip-hop, we hear about rap beef all the time. A rapper drops a diss track and the intended target releases a rebuttal. In the Pop genre, we’ve seen many ongoing feuds, such as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry’s multi-year beef. But never has a beef caused such intrigue as the rumored love triangle that Olivia Rodrigo is a part of.
So let’s break it down, Olivia Rodrigo and ‘High School Musical’ co-star Joshua Bassett were rumored to be romantically involved during the filming of the series. Bassett even released a song in the Summer of 2020 about falling for someone he could not be with. Many believed he was alluding to the fact that Rodrigo was underaged at the time. Bassett then began dating fellow Disney-alum Sabrina Carpenter. Fans believed this is what inspired Rodrigo to make ‘drivers license’. After the release of ‘drivers license’, a week later, Bassett released a song of his titled ‘Lie, Lie, Lie’. The song is about accusing someone of lying for their gain. Carpenter also released a song titled ‘Skin’ seemingly responding to Rodrigo as well. Regardless of whichever side you’re on, this whole thing is immensely entertaining.
After the response tracks to ‘drivers license,’ everything was relatively quiet about the possible beef between the three stars. Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘drivers license’ was number one for eight consecutive weeks, while Bassett and Carpenter’s songs struggled to stay on the charts at all. When Rodrigo announced she was releasing a new single, many of her newly gain fans were ready for a rebuttal to her detractors. And they got one. ‘Deja vu’ serves as a thematic sequel to ‘drivers license’. Rodrigo pulls the listeners back into her world with the first line “car rides to Malibu”, tying back into her debut. She starts off the first verse reminiscing about her previous relationship. But by the end of the verse, you realize it’s much deeper than that.
The premise of ‘deja vu’ is Rodrigo asking her ex (allegedly Bassett) if he gets déjà vu when he’s with his new girlfriend (allegedly Carpenter) because they are doing all the same things he and her did. There are some pretty specific lines in the song that makes it feel like this isn’t some situation Rodrigo vaguely created in her head. The music video further pushes this dramatic narrative forward. It features Rodrigo in various situations along with the new girlfriend doing the same things she once did.
Olivia Rodrigo’s Influences
Olivia Rodrigo has said her biggest influences are Taylor Swift and Lorde. She has even called herself “the biggest Swiftie in the whole world”. In her debut single, she channels Taylor Swift’s style of songwriting and story-telling. While on ‘deja vu’, her voice has a certain Lorde-esque sound to it. In both instances, her influences may be evident but she successfully separates herself from those comparisons. Her songwriting is so emotional and feels so close to her heart. When listening. it feels like you’re reading her diary. It’s a skill that many of her constituents will struggle to replicate.
Keep on Driving
Pop music is an ever-changing soundscape. What’s popular today, might not be popular next year. Olivia Rodrigo seems to have a handle on where she is headed. If her songwriting for her debut single and ‘deja vu’ is any indication, we may have another superstar in the making. She has already cruised past ‘drivers license’, let’s see if her Billboard success has deja vu with her second single.