On January 8, 2021, 17-year-old Disney star Olivia Rodrigo released her song titled “drivers license.” As of January 12, the song made it to the top of iTunes’ charts, beating out “Lonely” by Justin Bieber and “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd. This song became so popular due to its increasing popularity on the social media app, TikTok. Over the past few days, people have been using the sound in their videos, such as making edits or dances to the song.
What really helped Rodrigo’s song gain all this popularity, though, was the fan theories surrounding what, and who, the song is really about. While she didn’t reveal herself who it was about, many people believe it is about her “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” co-star, Joshua Bassett, 20.
With lyrics in the song saying, “I got my driver’s license last week just like we always talked about” hinting at how Joshua first taught Olivia how to drive in an In-n-Out parking lot, and “You’re probably with that blonde girl who always made me doubt, she’s so much older than me, she’s everything I’m insecure about” hinting at Joshua’s relationship with 21-year-old Sabrina Carpenter, this made fans automatically think of Bassett. Once people saw one theory, it blew up, and other people decided to make their own.
Popular TikTok users such as Gabe Escobar (@gabesco) went into detail about the song, making a two-part video on the app about how the song is about Bassett. With over 2.5 million followers, this circulated very quickly. Another popular user, Charli D’Amelio (@charlidamelio) made a video with a dance routine to the song, which got over 3.6 million likes. One user went viral after making a video with a fast-paced TikTok dance to the song (@aripine). This video got over 1.5 million likes and 5.6 million views. Rodrigo’s song is also one of the top trending songs on the app; when you press the discover button, the first thing to pop up at the top is “trending: drivers license, Olivia Rodrigo.”
While “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” fans did assist in helping the song gain popularity, Olivia Rodrigo has TikTok to thank for the success. With such powerful lyrics and a powerful voice, it really is no surprise that it got so popular. Influencers using the sound and analyzing the song introduced the song to a new audience on the app, which eventually led it to reaching number one on the iTunes music chart.
With all of this being said, TikTok is such an important platform when it comes to reaching a wide audience. Videos that go viral on the app tend to have one thing in common: they all do something that grabs the audience’s attention. In this case, TikTok users and influencers alike made videos surrounding Olivia Rodrigo’s song because it will grab the audience’s attention. That is how the song got to the top of the charts; with influencers talking about and making dances with the song, it made more users do the same.
These users then allowed a different audience to be introduced to the song, and that’s what made it popular. The key to using TikTok is to know what everyone likes and what will grab users’ attention. That will create a viral video, and that is how you get your message heard on such a huge social media platform.
Christina Billie is a junior public relations major at Temple University. She serves as her Chapter’s vice president and is also an account associate for PRowl Public Relations, Temple’s student-run public relations firm. She is currently interning at Breslow Partners, where she serves as a public relations intern.