Olivia Rodrigo Bridges Generations On Her Debut Album 'Sour'

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Many a young love story has started in a car, but teenage pop star Olivia Rodrigo's song "Driver's License" is about the end of a relationship.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DRIVER'S LICENSE")

OLIVIA RODRIGO: (Singing) I got my driver's license last week, just like we always talked about 'cause you were so excited for me to finally drive up to your house. But today I drove through the suburbs crying 'cause you weren't around.

LINDSAY ZOLADZ: I think it really has sort of had this cross-generational appeal...

SHAPIRO: That's music critic Lindsay Zoladz.

ZOLADZ: ...Because it's obviously speaking to a really specific teenage experience. But it's also an experience that everyone, more or less, has gone through at some point in their life.

SHAPIRO: And it seems like Zoladz is right. "Driver's License" cruised to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 the week it came out and stayed there for eight more.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DRIVER'S LICENSE")

RODRIGO: (Singing) Red lights, stop signs. I still see your face in the white cars.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The song is part of Rodrigo's debut album "Sour," which just came out, and it didn't come out of nowhere. Like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, Rodrigo is a product of the Disney-Channel-to-pop-star pipeline. In fact, one of her first songs, "All I Want," was recorded for a Disney Plus show.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL I WANT")

RODRIGO: (Singing) And there's one more boy. He's from my past. We fell in love, but it didn't last.

CHANG: Like "Driver's License," it's a love song, but it's more theatric, more Broadway. Zoladz says Rodrigo's time at Disney has given her a skill set that pop stars her age just don't often have.

ZOLADZ: I think that's given her this vocabulary of sort of bombastic feelings and really belting it out and having the ability to communicate that way in her music.

SHAPIRO: Those theatrics go a long way on her debut album, "Sour." There's the crushing pop-punk song "Good 4 U."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD 4 U")

RODRIGO: (Singing) Well, good for you. You look happy and healthy - not me, if you ever cared to ask.

CHANG: There's the folksy "Enough For You."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ENOUGH FOR YOU")

RODRIGO: (Singing) I wore makeup when we dated because I thought you'd like me more.

SHAPIRO: You might even hear her in her Swiftie. She uses the piano from Taylor Swift's 2017 song "New Year's Day" for her song "1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "1 STEP FORWARD, 3 STEPS BACK")

RODRIGO: (Singing) Called you on the phone today just to ask you how you were.

ZOLADZ: I think there's something really cool about how this younger fan of Taylor Swift is, in essence, riffing on what she learned from her older role model and kind of, like, remixing it for her generation.

CHANG: And much like a young Taylor Swift, Rodrigo just seems to get the teenage experience - you know, boys, breakups, the pressures of beauty. We've all been there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "1 STEP FORWARD, 3 STEPS BACK")

RODRIGO: (Singing) I hate that I give you power over that kind of stuff.

SHAPIRO: Olivia Rodrigo's debut album "Sour" is out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "1 STEP FORWARD, 3 STEPS BACK")

RODRIGO: (Singing) One step forward and three steps back. I'm the love of your life until I make you mad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.