December 8, 2021

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“deja vu” by Olivia Rodrigo Review


No one—especially not Olivia Rodrigo—expected “drivers license” to become the biggest song on the planet overnight. But this January, it happened. The introductory single from the 18-year-old actress, known for her roles in the Disney shows Bizaardvark and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, followed a heartbroken Rodrigo on a spin through suburbs, lamenting what could have been. Fueled by a juicy subplot involving a Disney love triangle (with speculative responses from the other involved parties), “drivers license” debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and broke Spotify’s record for the most song streams in a week. It even got its own effusive “Saturday Night Live” skit: “Sounds like it’s just some teen girl singing in her room to her piano,” remarked Pete Davidson. “And that’s the beauty of it, you got a problem?” retorted host Regé-Jean Page. The song’s delicate final moment—“’Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street”—is basically tattooed on the public consciousness.

After such a tremendous debut, Rodrigo’s next move would determine if she would be deemed a one-hit wonder or pop music’s next heavyweight. “deja vu” firmly suggests the latter. Once again, the narrative centers around an expired romance with distinctly theater-kid vibes: watching Glee reruns, trading clothing, being unabashedly annoying. Rodrigo catalogs these activities over a twinkly melody, twisting the tension before the big reveal: She’s not the love interest anymore. “I bet she’s bragging to all her friends/Saying you’re so unique,” she sings, throwing in a smug “hmph” for good measure. Instead of pitting two young women against each other, “deja vu” directs its ire towards some unoriginal dude who keeps forcing “Uptown Girl” on his lovers—even though it was Rodrigo who introduced her ex to Mr. “Piano Man” in the first place. If “drivers license” channeled the intimate storytelling of Taylor Swift, “deja vu” nods towards Lorde’s offbeat melodrama and, eventually, Florence and the Machine’s grandiosity. The production (by “drivers license” co-writer Dan Nigro, who has worked with Carly Rae Jepsen, Sky Ferreira, and Caroline Polachek), is delightfully ensnaring, and Rodrigo leans into the sassy, bittersweet catharsis. Rest assured: When the world opens up, everyone will be feverishly chanting, “Strawberry ice cream in Malibu, don’t act like we didn’t do that shit too!”





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