Olivia Rodrigo: Disney star's No 1 debut single beats Ed Sheeran's record

A familiar sound and rumoured real-life relationship drama created a ‘perfect storm’ for the 17-year-old’s pop breakout

The Disney Channel star Olivia Rodrigo has smashed UK chart records and global Spotify streaming records with her debut single. Drivers License is the UK’s official No 1, breaking the Official Charts Company’s record for the highest number of single-day streams ever for a non-Christmas song.

On 12 January, 17-year-old Rodrigo’s heartbroken epic was streamed 2.407m times in 24 hours, beating Ed Sheeran’s record for Shape of You, which received 2.274m streams in 24 hours in January 2017.

Rodrigo with her UK No 1 trophy.
Rodrigo with her UK No 1 trophy. Photograph: OfficialCharts.com/PA

Rodrigo also repeatedly broke Spotify’s global one-day streaming records for non-holiday songs. On 11 January, Drivers License was streamed 15.17m times. A day later, it broke that record with 17.01m streams. Mariah Carey’s classic All I Want for Christmas Is You currently holds Spotify’s one-day streaming record, with more than 17.2m plays.

Hailed by Rolling Stone as an early “song of the year”, Drivers License is the UK’s biggest first-week chart debut since former One Direction band member Zayn Malik released his debut single, Pillowtalk, in 2016.

Like Malik, Rodrigo’s success hasn’t come out of the blue. She has been a staple of Disney Channel programming since 2016, and has been leading the cast of mockumentary High School Musical: The Musical: The Series for two years and writing songs for its soundtrack.

Co-written by Rodrigo and producer Dan Nigro, Drivers License is rumoured to reference behind-the-scenes activity on the show. The song documents Rodrigo getting her driver’s licence, a moment that she intended to celebrate with a boyfriend who has now moved on to another girl.

Olivia Rodrigo: Drivers License – video

Fans have assumed it addresses Rodrigo’s co-star and rumoured ex-boyfriend Joshua Bassett, interpreting lyrics about a “blonde girl” who is “everything I’m insecure about” as a reference to another cast member. Rodrigo told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe that she wrote the song while “literally crying in my living room”. On Thursday, Bassett released a single, Lie, Lie, Lie, that has been interpreted as a riposte.

Signed to Interscope and Geffen Records, Rodrigo was born in Temecula, California and has named Taylor Swift and Lorde as her biggest inspirations. She is the latest pop star to break out of the Disney stable, following the likes of Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus. She is also massive on the platform TikTok, with 3.5m followers.

In an interview with Billboard, Spotify’s Becky Bass, leader of its global hits playlist, described the conditions of Rodrigo’s success as a perfect storm. “You have fans hearing Lorde in it, you have fans hearing Taylor [Swift] in it, you have fans hearing Kesha in it. Most of the world can relate to a breakup – so it’s a relatable song, as well. But you layer in the drama, you layer in a really active fanbase and you get this snowball effect.”


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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