drivers license

Drivers license.jpg

Date Aired
February 22, 2021
Running Time
16:24
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Todd: This episode was brought to you by...

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Todd: Thank you, and on with the show. (snaps fingers)

(Black screen, then the episode plays)

Todd plays "drivers license" on the piano.

OLIVIA RODRIGO - drivers license
A pop song review

Todd: So.

Clip of Billboard Explains video on "drivers license"

Female Host: By now you've probably heard about Olivia Rodrigo's "drivers license", which is taking over...

Todd (VO): About a few weeks ago, Billboard Twitter started blowing up with reports of a new song that, even before officially charting, was just racking up unfathomably huge amounts of streams. Like, we're talking insane, through the roof numbers.

Todd: Numbers that make you think that maybe day-traders on Reddit [image of "stonks" meme] were artificially jacking up the streams, cause these reports just straight didn't make any sense.

Billboard Editor: We talked to a Spotify rep during that first week, and they literally said "We've never seen anything like this."

Todd (VO): By the time that the song, called "drivers license", did officially chart on the Hot 100, it debuted at number 1.

Todd: Debuting at number 1 is usually reserved for mega-stars like Drake or Taylor Swift.

Clip of "All I Want" by...

Todd (VO): This artist, Olivia Rodrigo, has a previous chart history that consisted of exactly [screenshot of Hot 100 with "All I Want" at number 100] one song scraping the bottom of the charts for exactly two weeks. [clip of "All I Want"] So she's nowhere near the level where she can just skip to the front of the line like this.

Todd: But even just [air quotes] "placing at number 1" doesn't really describe how much bigger this song is than anything else. [image of Billboard article titled "Olivia Rodrigo's 'Drivers License' Is One of the Most Dominant No. 1s of Last 30 Years"] If it were only half as huge as it is, it would still be miles above every other song in its general area. [back to Todd] This just doesn't happen. Me personally...

Clip of Olivia Rodrigo - "drivers license"

Todd (VO): ...I was so blown away by the numbers that she was putting up, that I immediately drafted her on wavier. [image of Fanduel ad] In the pop music fantasy league that I'm in.

Todd: That's not a joke by the way. I have a lot of money riding on BTS having a good year.

Todd (VO): So, with the kind of massive, unprecedented success this song was having, I decided that the correct thing for me to do was to...

Todd: ...avoid it for as long as I possibly could.

Todd (VO): I was having a lot of fun reading all the reporting on it and trying to imagine what kind of song could be inspiring this massive groundswell of support. Why it was called "drivers license". What it could possibly be about.

Todd: Is it a kick-ass driving song? Is the driver's license a metaphor for freedom? [clip from DMV scene in Zootopia] Is it a song about being bored waiting in line at the DMV? [back to Todd] Eventually, curiosity got the better of me so I did listen. And, um.

Olivia Rodrigo: I got my driver's license last week

Just like we always talked about

I drove through the suburbs

Crying cause you weren't around

Todd: Oh, okay. It's a breakup song.

Olivia: I know we weren't perfect

Todd (VO): A teenage breakup ballad. Okay. Ther-there's always room for a song like this in the world.

Todd: I get it. And because I get it... I don't get it.

Olivia: And all my friends are tired

Of hearing how much I miss you

Todd (VO): I... I guess I was just expecting more. Something to justify all the hype.

Todd: Or maybe something that justified none of the hype.

Clip of Lil Nas X ft. Billie Ray Cyrus - "Old Town Road (Remix)"

Todd (VO): The last time this happened was "Old Town Road". And I didn't understand that song even a little at first. That one took me a long time to get. Honestly, I probably still don't get it completely.

Todd: And in hindsight, that actually feels right.

Todd (VO): Like, "Old Town Road" was an actual game changer. It was a full-on paradigm shift, it should feel different.

Todd: Like "Yeah, that's right you don't get it, old man. Everything is different now. I bet you still enjoy music by listening to it. [clip of two guys dancing to "Old Town Road" on TikTok] Dancing on camera for 30 seconds is the only way to interact with music now. Look at you making [image of a playlist open on Spotify] playlists like a dinosaur."

Clip of...

Todd (VO): But no, "drivers license" isn't like that. It's a perfectly normal, acceptable little breakup song. We always have those, and we should.

Olivia: Cause you were so excited for me

To finally drive up to your house

The idea with the driver's license is... You know, we were gonna go all these places once I had my license, and... Now I have my license and you're gone. That's a pretty solid idea for a song.

Todd: It really builds to a big bridge.

Olivia: Red lights, stop signs

Todd (VO): So it's like a real power ballad, we haven't had one of those in a while. I definitely understand this being a hit.

Todd: But twice as big a hit as anything else in just its first week? What's so special about it.

Todd (VO): There's been a lot of reporting on it. Many different theories on how this blew up so big. And pretty much none of them have been like "Well, because it's just so amazing, obviously."

Todd: Okay then. Well, let me take a look at the prevailing theories on what did drive "drivers license" to such insane heights. So here's...

THEORY 1: Don't forget, that pandemic thing is still happening

Todd (VO): ...theory number 1. Pandemic: still happening.

(Note: These theory titles show up throughout the video with "drivers license" in the background)

Todd: It's become a [clip of a tumbleweed blowing through a desert] real dead zone out there for new music. [image or Billboard article titled "Streaming Is Stalling: Can Music Keep Up in the Attention Economy"] At least from the really big names who need to make really big money off their projects and can't right now.

Clips of Harry Styles - "Watermelon Sugar"...

Todd (VO): Songs recorded before the pandemic carried us through most of 2020. [...and Taylor Swift - "Willow"] A couple names like Taylor and Ariana were nice enough to drop projects anyway, but...

Todd: ...we're still running low.

Clip of The Weeknd's...

Todd (VO): "Blinding Lights" is still in the top 5, that's from 2019! [clip of ET interview with Rhianna] Like, I don't know when those next albums from Adele or Rhianna or Drake are gonna drop, but it probably won't be until things re-open.

Todd: Although, if Rhianna does drop that next album, I'm basically gonna win the fantasy league immediately, so fingers crossed. [pause] It's a pandemic, I gotta entertain myself somehow.

Clip of "drivers license"

Todd (VO): My point is, there's a big opening right now in this dead zone. [clips of Dua Lipa - "Don't Start Now"...] The big winners of the pandemic were on-the-verge artists who jumped to the A-list, [...and SAINt JHN - "Roses (Imanbek Remix)"] and TikTok artists who were doing smash-and-grabs all year. [clip of Olivia on TikTok] But Olivia Rodrigo has somehow managed to be kind of both. She got big by posting her demos on TikTok and coming up like an actual grassroots artist.

Todd: But that was almost certainly a carefully rolled out marketing strategy by her label, because...

THEORY 2: The Mouse owns us all

Todd (VO): ...theory number 2: The Mouse.

Todd: This song was brought to you by: [clip of "The Wonderful World of Disney" intro] Disney. Because of course they did. Disney owns almost [image of all companies owned by Disney] the entirety of entertainment right now. Including, for a brief period, yours truly.

Images of headlines reading "Maker Studios acquires Blip" and "Disney Buys Maker Studios, Video Supplier for YouTube" as an old Disney song plays in the background

Todd (VO): Because of a series of wacky buyouts in the tech world, for a while...

Todd: ...my cheques were being signed by [image of...] Uncle Walt himself. Nowhere's safe.

Clip of Olivia at a red carpet

Todd (VO): Anyway, you may not know the name Olivia Rodrigo. I didn't. If you didn't either, you're probably not a teenager, because [clip of Olivia doing the Disney Channel intro] she's actually one of the bigger new stars on the Disney Channel. Uh, I don't really watch the Disney Channel because... you know, I'm a grown man and I don't wanna be put on a list.

Todd: So names like [images of...] Olivia Holt, Dove Cameron, Peyton List. I recognize them as famous people, the same way I recognize that [image of...] NASCAR drivers are famous. But I couldn't really tell you anything else about them. [back to Todd] But, you know, I do have Disney+, so I thought I'd check out what she's famous for.

Clip of intro for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Todd (VO): I watched every episode of her most recent show, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. A funny name for a very dull show.

Todd: Snooze-fest. At least Glee made you bleed from the eyes.

Clip of intro for...

Todd (VO): And before that, she was on a show called Bizaardvark. A show where she becomes a YouTube star, and gets to live in Jake Paul's hype house.

Clip from Bizaardvark

Paige (Olivia Rodrigo): We get to make even cooler videos for our fans, and we're finally gonna be around people who get us!

I only made it through one episode of this, because everything about this show was horrifying to me.

Todd: It's just so irresponsible for Disney to glamorize this lifestyle. [clip of intro for...] Like, Hannah Montana was fine. Pop stardom is safe and good, but YouTube?! God, no!

Clip from Bizaardvark

Paige: So many weirdos here! Frankie, we're home.

Todd: [sighs] I need to go lie down and think about my life choices.

Clip from High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Todd (VO): Anyway, my point was she's not nobody, she's already a big name. But that advantage only gets you so far. [clip of "Rumors" by...] Lindsay Lohan was much more famous, she never came close.

Todd: So, theory 3.

THEORY 3: Sadboys/sadgirls everywhere

Todd (VO): The trends have been pointing in this direction for a while.

Olivia: You didn't mean what you wrote in that song

I think it's very interesting that Oilvia's first song was a heartbreak ballad.

Todd: See, in the past, a child star who wanted to be a pop star [clip of Miley Cyrus - "The Climb"] would either make heartwarming, uplifting crap, [image of Nick Jonas shirtless] or they'd get very naked. But that doesn't really seem to fly these days.

Montage clips of Lorde - "Royals"; Alessia Cara - "Here"; Khalid - "Young Dumb & Broke"

Todd (VO): Ever since Lorde broke through in 2013, labels have tried to recalibrate and find a way to manufacture her authenticity with... up and down success.

Todd: And that's left the ones who came up more traditionally in kind of a weird place.

Montage clips of Justin Bieber - "Lonely"; Selena Gomez - "Lose You To Love Me"; Miley Cyrus - "Slide Away"

Todd (VO): A bunch of them are also making slow tempo, angsty music about their personal lives, trying to copy what Lorde did.

Todd: Including this song.

Clip of "drivers license"

Olivia: White cars, front yards

Todd (VO): This bridge right here, it sounds exactly like Lorde.

Clip of Lorde - "Green Light"

Lorde also wrote a whole breakup album, and it was not very commercially successful. But it did win a lot of acclaim.

Todd: So naturally...

Clip of "drivers license"

Todd (VO): ...it's the song that copies the underrated cult favorite that reaps all the reward.

Todd: Olivia is basically the [images of concert poster for...] Owl City to Lorde's [...and album cover for "Give Up" by...] Postal Service. But again, she wasn't the only one trying this.

Clips of "Lose You To Love Me"...

Todd (VO): This is the out-of-the-box smash that Selena Gomez, [...and "Without Me" by...] Halsey, and so many others have been trying to have for years.

Todd: And they didn't do it, but Olivia did. So let's move onto theory 4.

THEORY 4: It's a good song Brent

Todd (VO): Actually, the song really is that amazing.

Todd: Umm... well, okay It's definitely a possibility. Let's listen to it.

Olivia: I know we weren't perfect but I've never felt this way for no one

Todd: I know we weren't perfect, but I've never felt this way for no one. Uh-huh.

Olivia: And I just can't imagine how you could be so okay now that I'm gone

Todd: A teenager wrote this.

Todd (VO): You see, the thing is, I'm not a teenager anymore. My next breakup will probably be soundtracked by [clip of Phil Collins performing "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now" at Live Aid] 45 year old divorced dad music.

Phil Collins: Take a look at me now

Todd: Ahh, sing it Phil.

Clip of...

Todd (VO): Meanwhile, "drivers license" is not an all-ages song.

Olivia: I got my driver's license

It's literally about getting your driver's license, so it's not for adults.

Todd: Unless you, like, grew up in New York City and you're moving to Connecticut so now you finally need to learn to drive, and... also you got broken up with.

Todd (VO): So this is not gonna hit the same for me.

Olivia: Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street

[sarcastically] He said forever.

Todd: A 17 year old boy said you two were forever, but you weren't. Wow, who could have seen it coming?

Todd (VO): [Normally] But, there are definitely some real strong points to this song. Uh, I like that the lyrics are very specific. The driver's license is a great hook.

Todd: It feels real, it's emotionally true I guess.

Todd (VO): One thing you really mourn in a breakup is all the things you didn't get to do together.

Todd: Like, me back in high school. I rented [image of...] The Secret of Nimh on DVD. To watch with my girlfriend, but... uh, before we watched it, we broke up. [clip from The Secret of Nimh] And I guess I must have been looking forward to it, cause... The thought of watching it without her was so painful that I just refused to watch it. [back to Todd] And I still haven't, to this day. And I won't. [pauses] And I haven't even spoken to her in years, but uh... I will not watch that film, not ever. Not unless I ever see her again. So I can watch it with her.

Todd sits in silence as "drivers license" starts playing and the camera slowly zooms in

Olivia: Red lights, stop signs

I still see your face in the

Todd: Anyway, yeah, yeah... uh, yeah, I think I do like this song.

Clip of "drivers license"

Todd (VO): There are a lot of other cool parts in there. I like the way that it sounds like a car, like an engine turning off.

Brief snippet of "drivers license" instrumental

And Olivia's a good singer, but more importantly, she's a good actress. I do believe that she's very sad.

Todd: It's not a mature song, but it's a mature performance.

Todd (VO): You know, I think it's cool that this is how she chose to introduce herself to the wider world. I like that she's not...

Todd: ...doing the typical child star thing of trying too hard to be provocative.

Olivia: We used to go to

Cause I still fuckin' love

Todd: [gasps] She-sh [stammers] Wait, why was I so shocked by that?

Olivia: I still fuckin' love

Todd (VO): Like, I wasn't faking, I literally gasped when I first heard that line. Why?!

Todd: She's not destroying my image of her, I don't know who she is.

Todd (VO): It's not like a cursing high schooler generally makes my jaw drop like that, so...

Todd: I guess it just felt really out of place. I didn't see it coming, I guess, but uh... I'm not sure it worked.

Todd (VO): Funny how using adult language makes you seem more like a child when you do it wrong. Ok, so some of this is a little clunkier than it needs to be, I guess.

Todd: But if I were the right age, I think this would in fact break my little teenage heart. But that's because everything broke my little teenage heart. Teenagers cry, it's what they do.

Clip of Billboard Explains video from earlier

Todd (VO): The fact is that probably no song would be good enough on its own to explain success like this, it's just too much an outlier.

Todd: So let's move onto the next theory.

THEORY 5: Hollywood secrets revealed!

Todd (VO): Hot celebrity gossip! Forget whether the song is...

Todd: .."emotionally" true. Is it actually true?

Todd (VO): Artists more and more invite us into their personal lives with their music. [clip of ET News video on "drivers license"] And if you like rooting into celebrity dirty laundry, this song is a gold mine. Word on the street is that her ex is her High School Musical co-star Joshua Bassett.

Todd: And this lyric:

Clip of "drivers license"

Olivia: And you're probably with that blonde girl

Who always made me doubt

Todd (VO): That's about Bassett's new girlfriend, and somewhat [image of Olivia, Joshua and...] more famous Disney star, Sabrina Carpenter.

Todd: I don't even know if any of that is true.

Clips of Joshua Bassett - "Lie Lie Lie"...

Todd (VO): But everyone involved is sure riding high off the gossip. [...and Sabrina Carpenter - "Skin"] Especially since both Bassett and Carpenter have fired back at her with response tracks.

Clip of "Lie Lie Lie"

Joshua Bassett: I know what you say about me

I've listened to both, and they are horribly transparent.

Todd: Especially Sabrina's.

Clip of "Skin"

Sabrina Carpenter: That you can't get under my skin

If I don't let you in

Todd (VO): Like, she acts like this whole thing doesn't bother her. But it clearly does, so it's transparent in that regard.

Todd: But also, it's transparently trying to piggyback off of Olivia's success. The song has no reason to exist.

Clip of "drivers license"

Todd (VO): "I got dumped and I'm sad"...

Todd: ...is something to write a song about.

Clip of "Skin"

Todd (VO): "My boyfriend's weepy ex is annoying"...

Todd: ...is not.

Todd (VO): Or at least it's not without going [clip of Avril Lavigne - "Girlfriend"] full mean girl and making something really bratty and cruel. [clip of "Lie Lie Lie"] These are terrible responses to this song. Unless the idea was to get revenge by releasing songs so bad that they taint "drivers license" by association.

Todd: Which is kind of what's happening. Both these songs make the whole "drivers license" phenomenon look like a publicity stunt and we're all being played.

Clip of "Skin"

Todd (VO): Like "Oh, they just happened to have to have songs locked and loaded with full videos to be released within a week." Sure.

Todd: On the other hand, both the response songs [screenshot of Hot 100 with "Skin" at number 99] are doing nothing because they're terrible.

Clip of "drivers license"

Todd (VO): So, even if there is a lot of astroturfing involved, it's clear that there's only so much that even the Disney corporation can do. "drivers license" actually is resonating with the kids. And...

Todd: You know what, me too. I think I've talked myself into liking this song.

Todd (VO): I don't think it's gonna change my life, I wouldn't make it the biggest hit of the decade. But I think it's pretty worthy. And honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if I like it even more by the end of the year.

Todd: This song benefitted greatly from the pandemic. There's not a lot of competition, and we're all feeling very lonely. But at least right now, there's an excuse.

Todd (VO): Pretty soon, there will be places to go and things to do again. So when that happens and you're still driving alone, this song is absolutely going to wreck you.

Todd: I can't wait. See you at the end of the pandemic, everyone!

Olivia: Yeah you said forever, now I drive alone past your street

Closing Tag Song: Gladys Knight - "Licence to Kill"

THE END

"drivers license" is owned by Geffen

This video is owned by me

THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!!

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