A heartbreak song raises suspicion about a new potential love triangle.
On January 8th of 2021, Olivia Rodrigo, star of Disney +’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, released her debut single “drivers license.” Since the release, fans have been speculating who the Disney star could be singing about in her new smash hit. The song had instantly gone viral on TikTok, not only because of its incredible lyricism, but because of the supposed drama surrounding it. According to E News, fans think the song was written about Joshua Bassett, Rodrigo’s on-screen love interest in HSMTMTS. Buzzfeed explained how fans originally linked the two together romantically after seeing their on-screen chemistry. Although Rodrigo, 17, and Bassett, 20, never confirmed that they dated off-screen, the lyrics in “drivers license” led fans to believe they did.
“I got my driver’s license last week / Just like we always talked about / ‘Cause you were so excited for me / To finally drive up to your house,” are lyrics that made fans wonder if the 17 year old was in fact singing about her co-star. Last year, Olivia said on her Instagram stories that Joshua was the one who taught her how to drive (before she got her permit, he let her drive his car around an In-N-Out parking lot). She also references a white car in the bridge of the song: “I still see your face in the white cars,” and from a quick search through his Youtube channel, anyone can see that Bassett actually drives a white car in a video he posted to his channel titled Surprising My Dad with His Dream Drum-Set. In 2020, Bassett released a song titled “Anyone Else” where he sings about being in love with someone who is in a relationship. In an interview with Euphoria., Bassett said he wrote the song while shooting Season 1 of HSMTMTS in 2019. At this time, Rodrigo was dating Ethan Wacker, a old co-star from her previous role on Disney’s Bizaardvark. Fans seem to believe Bassett wrote the song about Rodrigo. In “drivers license,” Rodrigo sings “Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me,” which adds to the list of lyrics that to Bassett. Neither Bassett nor Rodrigo have responded to the claims that they’re dating or who the song “drivers license” is about, but Bassett, to the surprise of many fans, posted a screenshot of Rodrigo’s song on his Instagram story to show support.
The love triangle comes into play when Rodrigo sings “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…” This speculation began once fans connected the lyrics to Bassett’s current rumored girlfriend, Sabrina Carpenter. Blonde-haired Carpenter is also 21– 4 years old than Rodrigo– which is why fans made the correlation. Rodrigo had originally posted a version of “drivers license” to her Instagram back in 2020 where she sang about a “brunette girl” but ended up changing it to “blonde girl,” further igniting the theories that the line is aimed at Carpenter. Bassett and Carpenter were first linked last July after being photographed at a Black Lives Matter protest together. Both Rodrigo and Bassett were very present on each other’s social media accounts and seemed very close up until May of last year. Fans realized the pair had stopped liking each other’s posts 2 months before Bassett was first publicly seen with Carpenter. Despite the alleged drama, Rodrigo still follows both Carpenter and Bassett on Instagram. Both parties have yet to make a statement about the song.
Another famous love triangle where music was used to express heartbreak included Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, and Hailey Baldwin. Gomez and Bieber dated on and off for 8 years before splitting up for good in March of 2018. Baldwin originally met Bieber in 2009 but they didn’t officially date until 2016. In 2018, a couple of months after Bieber and Gomez called it quits, he started to date Baldwin again, going on to marry her the same year. During their marriage, many fans have compared Baldwin to Gomez. According to Billboard, a fan of Gomez posted a video calling for people to bombard Baldwin’s Instagram Live with comments saying “Selena is better.” Bieber then took to Instagram to comment “This sad excuse of a human just encouraged people on video to literally go after my wife telling people to say that my previous relationship was better so on and so fourth [sic]. I just wanted to share this so people get an idea of what we face on a day to day.” Gomez has never commented on this ordeal directly but has stated in a video that she wants her fans to be kind; “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, if you’re my fans don’t be rude to anybody, please.” A year after Bieber and Baldwin tied the knot, Gomez released her Number 1 Hit “Lose You To Love Me,” which is heavily speculated to be about her relationship with Bieber. In the song Gomez sings, “In two months you replaced us / Like it was easy / Made me think I deserved it / In the thick of healing.” This line implies that Bieber replaced her with Hailey two months after they broke up. Gomez stated in an interview with Ryan Seacrest that she had written the song in 2018 but didn’t feel emotionally ready to release it until 2019. She told Jimmy Fallon, in an interview on The Tonight Show, that she felt like she could personally let it go once the song was out. Just like Olivia Rodrigo, Gomez used her music as a way to convey her feelings over the love that was lost.
Love triangles will always catch the general public’s interest, especially when they involve musicians. Releasing music about heartbreak is something that can expand to a larger audience because there are plenty of people that can personally relate. This incident in particular attracted attention because of TikTok. TikTok is an app growing more popular every day, and almost every song used on the app goes viral; “drivers license” was no exception. Within a day of its release, Rodrigo was already breaking records. “Drivers license” has broken the record for the fastest song to reach 100 million streams on Spotify, in an amazing 7 days. The drama involved with this song added to the appeal because of the age group it reached. Kids in high school and older immediately wanted to know who the song was about, and hundreds of TikToks went viral explaining it. As a longtime user of TikTok, and multiple other social media platforms, I personally have never seen a song reach this large of an audience. If you didn’t hear about this song before, you definitely will be interested to listen now.
In regards to PR, the love triangle absolutely gave the song more press and attention. Not only is it beautifully written, but with a whole lot of drama surrounding it… it’s a PR dream. Of course we might never have official confirmation that the song was written about Bassett, but in the meantime it’s fun to see all of the theories the fans come up with. If I was to help further expand the popularity of this song, with love triangle drama aside, I would have Olivia post her own interactive challenge on TikTok. I think this would be smart because coming up with a cool challenge that artist themselves are a part of, can help to make any song more popular. In addition, I think Olivia should perform on talk shows. The song has already reached the younger generation and with a performance on a show like Good Morning America, The Today Show, or even in another area like Late Night– The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, for example– she could easily gain the attention of the older generation as well!
Follow Up (2/22/21)
To no one’s surprise, “driver’s license” has become a Billboard Hit, having stayed at the Number 1 spot on top of the charts for a solid 6 weeks. According to Billboard, “driver’s license” is just the 10th single, in history, to have debuted at Number 1 on the Hot 100 and spend its first 6 weeks on top. Not only has Rodrigo been dominating the Billboard Chart, but she has also earned herself a spot as the runner-up on the Pop Radio Chart, just below Ariana Grande. So far, since the release of the song, Rodrigo has given her fans two incredible performances: The first, being her debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and second, at the Grammy Museum. Both performances were done using a piano and truly showcased not only her outstanding vocals, but also her musical ability.
It seems as if the hype around “driver’s license” hasn’t fully calmed down yet, especially since Sabrina Carpenter decided to release a song of her own that is heavily speculated to be about the love triangle drama. On her song titled “Skin,” Carpenter sings “Maybe we could’ve been friends, if I met you in another life / Maybe then we could pretend, there’s no gravity in the words we write / Maybe you didn’t mean it / Maybe blonde was the only rhyme.” Fans immediately jumped to the conclusion that this verse is referencing a lyric in Rodrigo’s song, “and you’re probably with that blonde girl.” Unlike the situation surrounding “driver’s license” where no one confirmed or denied the theories, Carpenter herself was asked directly about the rumors regarding her song.
During an interview with Ryan Seacrest, Carpenter responded to a question asking if “Skin” is a response to Rodrigo’s song, ““It’s just not my place to say,” Sabrina said. “I think a lot of people were sort of pointing fingers and at the end of the day, I was dealing with what I was dealing with internally and the only way I ever know how to deal with things is to write about it.” Although “Skin” has not had the immediate success that “driver’s license” did, it is still a stunningly vulnerable song that shows how this drama, created by fans, affected Carpenter.
Both of these young artists have proven their ability to take heartbreak and turn it into music that millions can relate to and love, including myself. I hope for nothing but the best for them both and I’m excited to hear more music in the future!