Former Disney star Olivia Rodrigo hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 after her debut single “Driver’s License” transformed into a heartbreak anthem on TikTok and caught the attention of Taylor Swift.
Rodrigo, 17, has inspired countless videos on the app with her first-ever release as users sang along, made parodies and even created their own spin-offs of “Driver’s License." The song amassed 76.1 million streams and sold 38,000 downloads in the week following its Jan. 8 release, according to Billboard.
Spotify said that three days after its release, “Driver’s License” hit the most streams in a day for a non-holiday song. It broke its own record the next day.
In a TikTok announcing the song’s release, Rodrigo told followers that she was inspired to write the song after getting her license six months ago. She said she was excited to “drive alone thru the suburbs crying.”
The song tells the tale of a young girl who finally gets her driver's license and drives around crying, reminiscing about a lost love. Rodrigo's lyrics explore her insecurities and the way she's still haunted by the former love.
"And I know we weren't perfect but I've never felt this way for no one," Rodrigo sings. "I just can't imagine how you could be so okay now that I'm gone."
TikTok users became enthralled with the alleged backstory of “Driver’s License," creating dozens of videos discussing what they believe to be the inspiration for the song. According to the TikTok theory, Rodrigo wrote the song about her former “High School Musical: The Musical - The Series” co-star Joshua Bassett.
Users made videos speculating that Rodrigo allegedly fell for Bassett, who was 18 when she was 15, but that they couldn’t be together due to her age. Bassett taught her how to drive and told her he’d wait until she was older, but then eventually moved on with a new girl, the videos theorized.
Social media sleuths even surfaced an old video where Rodrigo said Bassett took her for a drive after finding out a song they co-wrote, “Just For a Moment,” was going to be included in the Disney series.
Neither Bassett nor Rodrigo have publicly commented on the fan theories regarding the song.
But fans of the song united around the near-universal pain of teenage heartbreak as they shared videos of them singing along, dancing and explaining the song to other people in their lives.
"I mean the whole song just makes you feel like you’ve been through the worst heartbreak of your life,” one user said in her video, which includes an explicit lyric.
And “Driver’s License” even caught the attention of pop superstar Taylor Swift, who also rose to fame as a teenager with her own heartbreak anthems. Rodrigo posted a screenshot of her song hitting the iTunes chart under Swift, captioning the Instagram photo with “next to taylor on the us i tunes chart i’m in a puddle of tears.”
“I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud,” Swift commented.
Rodrigo told Billboard in an interview that it has been the "weirdest week of my whole life" following the song's transformation into an internet phenomenon.
“To see it do really well — to have this really painful moment in my life, and turn it into something beautiful that can maybe help people through a tough time that they’re having, like I was having a tough time — it’s just so empowering," Rodrigo said. "And I feel grateful that I got to do that.”