12 sep 2023

Who’s Olivia Rodrigo, the pop rock singer following in Taylor Swift’s footsteps?

Since 2021, the idol of Gen Z Olivia Rodrigo has been translating into songs the woes of a young generation in search of meaning. The 20-year-old American singer-songwriter, musician, and actress has established herself as the rising star of pop-rock music, racking up record audience ratings. Numéro reveals five essential facts about her as her second album Guts has just come out on September 8th.

1. Olivia Rodrigo’s hit Drivers License went viral on TikTok


TikTok does wonders. A few seconds extracted from a song and used in a short video can literally launch the career of a young artist. Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road (2019) and Gayle’s Abcdefu (2022) became viral through that process. The 20-year-old Californian singer Olivia Rodrigo is no exception to the rule – the app praised her to the skies in 2021. When she unveiled the poignant Drivers License that very same year, the younger generations on social media instantly adopted the track, which explored the themes of teenage lost love and emotional pain. 


Within a week, 650,000 videos were posted featuring the song co-written by Olivia Rodrigo and American producer Dan Nigro (Caroline Polachek, Kylie Minogue). The video got over 30 million views in seven days – over 460 million views today – and the single ranked number one on the US Hot 100. The career of the American singer-songwriter, musician, and actress took a radical turn at that point, evolving from a promising newcomer to a major pop phenomenon.

2. Olivia Rodrigo’s first album Sour is a record breaker 


Five months after the release of Drivers License, Olivia Rodrigo unveiled Sour in May 2021. Her 12-track debut album, which included the brilliant Good 4 U (2021) and the excellent Deja Vu (2021), was a giant success. The album actually made Spotify’s streaming history when it broke the record for the highest number of listeners in a single week. The songs were streamed no fewer than 385 million times in seven days and topped the charts worldwide. By the end of 2021, Sour became the second best-selling album of the year, behind 30 by British singer Adele. To date, 17 million copies have been sold around the globe, including 133,000 in France. The reasons for Olivia Rodrigo’s success? A 2000s-influenced trendy aesthetic, catchy melodies, lyrics about complicated love stories, and polished, movie-like videos, often directed by photographer Petra Collins.


The laudatory critical reception of the first opus is likely to happen again for the second album, Guts, released on September 8th, 2023. Truth is, the first single, Vampire (2023), is already charting at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. This new project seems to be just as successful as the previous one, judging by Olivia Rodrigo’s new hit, Bad Idea Right?. Olivia Rodrigo said about Guts in a press release: “For me, this album is about growing pains and trying to figure out who I am at this point in my life. I feel like I grew 10 years between the ages of 18 and 20 — it was such an intense period of awkwardness and change. I think that’s all just a natural part of growth, and hopefully the album reflects that.

3. Olivia Rodrigo won 3 Grammy awards (and broke one of them)


It is quite rare for a young artist to make so much noise with only a few singles and one album in the bag. Described as an “industry plant” – an artist who has received support from major music labels since her debut, but who appears as an independent, self-made talent –, Olivia Rodrigo shines as a true Gen Z idol. A status reinforced by the Time, which nominated her “artist of the year” in 2021. All these signals didn’t go unnoticed by professionals of the music industry, and a year later, the singer received an invitation to the 64th Grammy Awards ceremony at just 19. Nominated in seven different categories, she won three awards – “Best New Artist”, “Best Pop Vocal Album” and “Best Pop Solo Performance”. 


While she made quite an impression during the ceremony, the artist also caused a stir when she was posing with her trophies. Enthusiastic and proud of her achievements, the American singer let an award slip from her hands and shatter on the floor in front of an audience of stunned photographers. For the record, Taylor Swift also broke one of her Grammy awards the same way back in 2010. Does this incident foreshadow a flamboyant career like Taylor Swift?

4. Olivia Rodrigo’s debut with Disney


Disney Channel is an inexhaustible breeding ground for talent – Miley Cyrus, Zendaya, or Selena Gomez are perfect illustrations of that. Today, the American TV channel owned by the Walt Disney Company keeps selecting the new faces of the entertainment industry. Although Olivia Rodrigo has chosen music to express herself now, she was first spotted by the firm behind Mickey Mouse a few years earlier. In 2016, the audience discovered a lively Olivia Rodrigo as Paige Olvera, her character in the sitcom Bizaardvark. After three successful seasons, the child star landed the role of Nini Salazar-Roberts in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Airing on Disney+, this reboot of the famous High School Musical films gave Olivia Rodrigo the chance to show off her singing talents. That project allowed her to build her reputation and opened a few doors for her.

5. Olivia Rodrigo’s deep admiration for Taylor Swift


Like many Americans, Olivia Rodrigo is a die-hard Taylor Swift fan. Although she has already shared that her playlist includes Lorde, Pearl Jam, No Doubt, and Green Day, Taylor Swift remains the one and only. She has even publicly declared that she is “her biggest fan in the world”. And the love is mutual, as the singer of Bad Blood (2014) openly congratulated Olivia Rodrigo for her viral track Drivers License. On an Instagram post, the young singer expressed how delighted she was that her hit was as successful as a Taylor Swift song, to which the American superstar responded: “I say that’s my baby and I’m proud.” Olivia Rodrigo even claimed that Taylor Swift was the reason why she became a songwriter. Although the tabloids have been playing up the idea of a friendship break-up for some time now, the two stars seem to be very fond of each other.


Guts (2023) by Olivia Rodrigo, available on September 8th.