Olivia Rodrigo’s Journey Towards Being The Internet’s Favorite Superstar

Olivia Rodrigo is a Filipino-American actress, songwriter and singer. The breakout star of 2021, released Drivers Licence in January and her journey up the charts and into our hearts hashave been uphill— – leading us to the release of her highly anticipated album “Sour” on the 21st May 21. I have been a huge fan of hers ever since the first season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series was released in 2019, and watching her career evolve, from the little snippets of songs she would post on Instagram over quarantine, to seeing her perform on SNL and the Brit Awards has made my adoration for her grow. She has made the Internet collective proud of her (alongside Taylor Swift, of course), making her almost like the Internet’s cool little sister. 

She was born on February 20,th 2003, in Temecula, California. Her mother is American and her father is Filipino, with her great-grandfather moving to America from the Philippines as a teenager. Growing up, she followed Filipino traditions, started and started taking dancing and singing lessons at six years old, and starred in various school plays and regional musical theatre. By the age of eight, she was on multiple talent shows (note: they are always on my YouTube recommended and it’s adorable). Olivia explains in her Genius interview that she got into acting because she was so expressive when she sang. 

Her acting career started with the movie An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success (2015), followed by Bizaardvark (2016-2019). Bizaardvark is a Disney show that followed two 12-year-old12 year old best friends: Paige and Frankie who made music videos and posted them online. Rodrigo played Paige OlveraPaige Olvera was played by Rodrigo and her co-star was Madison Hu. She is currently in Disney Plus’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series or HSMTMTS (2019-present) as Nini. The Asian representation in new Disney shows isare definitely note-worthy as someone who grew up preferring Disney over Nickelodeon. 

The creators of HSMTMTS realized her talent as a budding singer-songwriter and asked her to write a song to fit her character’s narrative. At just 16- years- old, her song “All I Want” broke records with the song getting millions of streams. Olivia felt that having the perspective of her character coupled with her own experiences as a teenage girl allowed her to write a song that was authentic to her, expressing that the process was a great exercise as an actor and songwriter. It also sparked a TikTok trend, which in today’s day and age is a telling sign of success, with her announcement of the song on the app reaching over 43 million views. Further, she collaborated with Joshua Bassett, a co-star on the show, on another song titled “Just for a Moment”. It again follows the narration of both the character’s storylines.

Still of Olivia Rodrigo’s Driver’s License music video.   Photo Credit:  billboards.com

Still of Olivia Rodrigo’s Driver’s License music video.

Photo Credit: billboards.com

Her two successful songs for Disney Plus were a strong foundation as she releasedwent on to release “Driver’s License” in January of this year. “Driver’s License” broke Spotify’s record for the most streams in one day and peaked at 17 million streams on the 12th of January 12, quickly becoming the biggest selling debut single in over five years. The positive response to this song is so monumental that I’m sure many will look back at 2021 and have this song come to mind. I can’t speak for everyone as to why this song was so successful. I don’t even know why I like it, especially as someone who has never experienced heartbreak before. However, her ability to express what that feels like so accurately is a sign of her talent. It truly transcends age and gender and every societal boundary. 

Her following two singles: “deja vu” and “good 4 u” followed the climb and allowed Rodrigo to keep her successful momentum, despite both songs having a different sound and vibe than “Driver’s Licence.”. 

Unlike other Disney stars who moved onto music careers, she is currently signed to Interscope and Geffen Records, a decision that many claim is the secret to her success especially as a young female Disney star. For reference, artists like Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez signed to Disney-owned Hollywood Records, which was usually a stepping stone for Disney stars. However, many leave after a while to fully break free from the perfected Disney image. Rodrigo’s label has allowed her to have full creative freedom that is evident in the songs and imagery they evoke, something that past stars did not have at her age. 

Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Album Cover   Photo Credit:  wikipedia

Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Album Cover

Photo Credit: wikipedia

The variety in those three singles kept her fans wanting more and with that, “Sour” became a massive hit. The Washington Post elaborates that “the album experiments within the pop genre, ballads relaying the heartache of Rodrigo’s breakup and the rock-tinged tracks pulsing with teen angst”. I couldn’t say it better myself. In her short film posted on her Vevo channel, she mentions how she feels emotions deeply and songwriting is a way for her to process them (pisces things), expressing that “Sour” was her way of expressing feelings that sometimes are not acceptable in society or are frowned upon. An example of this is the song “good 4 u”, where she unapologetically lets out her teenage girl rage and angst that is often shoved away to maintain a socially acceptable image. Coupled with the passive-aggressiveness in the music video, that song is one that comes to mind when I think of Rodrigo’s openness and honesty that us listeners resonate with. She also states that she will never stop writing “truthful, authentic personal songs” in fear of what people on the Internet say. Her courage to speak out at such a young age is admirable.

Despite not being a huge expert on music, I appreciate this sense of community she has created  where everyone (regardless of age) is able to enjoy the album. The mutual regression to our early 2010 angsty teenage years emulated in the album is a reminder of the early Disney stars we grew up with. Though I didn’t grow up with her (I only started following her at 17 or 18 years old), I admire her breaking walls for younger generations of Asian-American children to express themselves unapologetically. The impact she’s had is already immense and I can’t wait to follow her as she continues to grow. 














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