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Music Rewind 2021: Olivia Rodrigo’s Music Debut Makes Her A Global Teen Pop Sensation

Music Rewind 2021: Olivia Rodrigo’s Music Debut Makes Her A Global Teen Pop Sensation

Of the artists who debuted in 2021, very few (if any) have made as big of a splash as Olivia Rodrigo. This time last year, she was gearing up to release her first single, and now she’s met her idols, performed at some of music’s biggest award shows, and won more awards than we can count on one hand. Through her passionate lyrics, bold music videos, and inspiring interviews, Olivia has invited millions of fans into her heart and mind, and we can’t imagine what ground she’ll break next.

Let’s take a look back on the momentous year Olivia Rodrigo had in 2021! 

Debuting With ‘drivers license’ In January

If you haven’t scream-sung the cathartic bridge of ‘drivers license’ after a messy breakup, or even just while pretending to be a pop star in the shower, you’re missing out! The heights Olivia reached with just her debut single are ridiculous. She became a household and highway name with a bittersweet lament about how a relationship ended before she could get her license and drive to her lover’s house like they “always talked about.” 

The fact that Olivia made such a breakthrough by combining two milestones many teens go through, getting their license and getting their heartbroken, speaks volumes about her relatability and her status as a Gen-Z icon. 

Being Part Of The TIME Next 100 

Just one song was enough for TIME Magazine to name Olivia as one of their Next 100, which recognizes young voices making a difference in the world! Olivia got recognized in the “Phenoms” category and earned a write-up by the iconic Gwen Stefani. 

Every line in ‘drivers license’ feels like it was ripped out of Olivia’s diary, each one containing a beauty and level of detail that makes you feel like you’re with her, driving through the suburbs of Southern California at night, lost in thought. Rare is the artist who can transport that way, especially at such a young age. And for anyone going through their first heartbreak, Olivia’s voice is a light in the dark, a promise that your pain can someday become a deep source of power.

Gwen Stefani for TIME

Her Follow-Up Singles

Olivia became the first artist to debut their first three singles in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 when ‘deja vu’ went to #3 and ‘good 4 u’ went to #1! ‘deja vu’ is quite simply a perfect pop song, with fun synths and a bridge inspired by Taylor Swift’s ‘Cruel Summer.’ Its music video is just as exciting, playing on the song’s idea of ‘deja vu’ by flashing between Olivia and another girl.

Meanwhile, ‘good 4 u’ is slowly catching up to the number of streams ‘drivers license’ has and became a smash hit over the summer. Part of its appeal is the music video, which nods to iconic movies like The Princess Diaries and Jennifer’s Body. See if you can spot the references!

Performing At The BRIT Awards

Just over a week before putting out her debut album, Olivia got to do her debut performance at the iconic BRIT Awards! Her vocals sounded amazing, even if she was nervous singing ‘drivers license’ in front of stars like Harry Styles and Dua Lipa. But maybe the best part of the night: Olivia met her (and our) idol Taylor Swift after the show. 

Performing On Saturday Night Live

Olivia’s schedule was packed during her album release week, and we’re thankful for the amazing content she gave us! One milestone moment was her appearance on Saturday Night Live. She offered an energetic performance of ‘good 4 u’ and a stunning piano rendition of ‘drivers license.’ 

Releasing Her Debut Album

Olivia dropped SOUR in May, and we’re unashamed to say we’ve had it on repeat ever since! Between songs like the punk-tinged opener ‘brutal,’ the bittersweet ‘happier,’ and the hopeful ‘hope ur ok,’ there really is something on the album for everyone. Unsurprisingly, SOUR went #1 on the Billboard 200, and it’s now nominated for Album of the Year at next year’s GRAMMY Awards. 

Two songs on the record got the Taylor Swift seal of approval: ‘deja vu,’ which drew inspiration from ‘Cruel Summer,’ and ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back,’ which revamps the piano notes from Taylor’s 2017 song ‘New Year’s Day.’ Even on the songs she isn’t credited on, you can see how Olivia learned from Taylor’s detailed writing style.

Graduating High School

We’re so proud of, and impressed by, Olivia for simultaneously finishing high school and launching her music career! She’s such a hard worker, and this was the ultimate proof. It’s also a reminder of how much she’s accomplished at such a young age!

Her SOUR Prom Concert Movie

Many artists did virtual concerts throughout the pandemic, but Olivia took it to the next level with SOUR Prom! The short concert movie included a mashup of ‘happier’ and ‘deja vu,’ ‘brutal,’ ‘traitor,’ ‘jealousy, jealousy,’ ‘enough for you,’ ‘drivers license,’ and ‘good 4 u’ with a variety of school-themed sets. 

Olivia held a prom-themed drive-in movie party with friends like Conan Gray to make the release even more fun. She even invited a group of fans and bought them prom dresses to wear! We love that she put so much effort into making a fun night for some of her biggest fans.

Visiting The White House

How many teenagers can say they met the President? Olivia can! In July, she visited the White House to discuss the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and we love her dedication to helping others. Not to mention her adorable pink outfit, which totally gave us Cher Horowitz vibes.

I am beyond honored and humbled to be here today to help spread the message about the importance of youth vaccination. I am in awe of the work President Biden and Dr. Fauci have done and am happy to lend my support to this important initiative. It’s important to have conversations with friends and family members, encouraging all communities to get vaccinated and actually get to a vaccination site, which you can do more easily than ever before given how many sites we have and how easy it is to find them.

Olivia Rodrigo

Performing (And Winning) At The MTV Video Music Awards

Olivia lit up the VMAs stage with a fiery performance of ‘good 4 u’ in September, and later in the night, she took home some awards of her own! She was the most successful female artist of this year’s ceremony, winning Best New Artist as well as Song of the Year and Push Performance of the Year for ‘drivers license.’ 

Getting Nominations For The 2022 GRAMMY Awards

A little peek into next year when Olivia will get to attend her first GRAMMY Awards! She got a mind-blowing seven nominations: Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for SOUR, Best Music Video for ‘good 4 u,’ and Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance for ‘drivers license.’ We’re ridiculously excited to see which awards she takes home.

We can’t wait to see what Olivia has in store for us in 2022. But until then, we’ll be basking in the content she gave us this year! What was your favorite Olivia moment of 2021? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Find more Olivia Rodrigo content that will make you ‘happier’ here


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