American singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo, who made history at the 2022 Grammys by winning three trophies in the categories of Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance (for ‘Drivers License’) and Best Album vocal pop (for her debut album ‘Sour’), wanted to be an Olympic gymnast as a child. Years later, the 19-year-old from Los Angeles who was named Time magazine’s 2021 “Entertainer of the Year” jumped, jumped and landed on the podium on music’s biggest stage.
From Disney to the top
Rodrigo played a guitarist on Disney Channel’s Bizaardvark and was cast in the 2019 Disney series “High School Musical,” where she wrote the song “All I Want.” It charted at number 90 on the US charts, and Rodrigo garnered more eyeballs than other Disney-created stars like Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez when they debuted.
The singer-songwriter consciously tried to break out of the Disney factory mold and create his own identity. She posted her cuts on Instagram, nurturing a loyal listener base. She covered versions of Taylor Swift’s songs, one of which, “Cruel Summer”, was shared by Swift herself. Rodrigo then wrote ‘Deja Vu’, which followed songs from Swift’s ‘Evermore’ album.
Drivers License, Rodrigo’s debut single, followed in 2021. It was a robust take on teenage angst, which appealed to young people around the world. It broke records on Spotify and became number one on the Billboard Hot 100 within a week. Billboard called it the “Runaway Hit of 2021,” and The New York Times quoted Jeremy Erlich, co-head of music at Spotify, as saying the song had “a ton of X-factor that made [it] the perfect storm”. Rodrigo released his first album, “Sour”, in the middle of the year – it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and spent five weeks there.
More than a teenage icon
In July 2021, Rodrigo traveled to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden and encouraged America’s youth to get vaccinated before any other pop icon. Building on her role as a public service ambassador, Rodrigo became a guest speaker and panelist for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
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Rodrigo came out of Disney’s cotton candy dream factory, but was rewarded for expressing the angst, strife and struggles of American teenagers. Her multiculturalism – her father is Filipino-American and her mother has German and Irish ancestry – has helped her.
She is also an easy wordsmith who delivers the message with precision, without mush or distracting instrumentation.