Modern day music has drastically shifted to the pretty polished product. Music videos comprised of consumerism and product placement. Maybe this is an older version of myself speaking out (“Get the hell off my lawn!”), but it still rings true with artistry in musical format. Enter turn of the decade autotune and a panel of writers for the lyrics. Producers galore. Almost as if entertainment is being run by a corporate entity. I’m not in that crowd, but all I know is Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” (stylized in lowercase), is refreshing. To me the true essence of artistry at its core is to invoke emotion. This song has done just this, and I have only just watched the video for the first time today.
Based solely on the lyrics and the way the music flows in such an eerie coalesced composition is remarkable. It invokes such a degree of sadness, yet has a glimmer of hope with every new verse. Coming from her perspective, the lyricism feels like any one of us could experience or have had this experience in the past, or currently experiencing. This song reminds me of how modern lyrics are not earning their honors. Meaning Rodrigo (co-writer Dan Nigro), has attempted to say everything she can to the extreme where she needs to curse to send the message home. To me, cursing is life. But in most instances it is used primarily for proper emphasis. It shouldn’t be the common denominator to the piece.
The video opens up to Rodrigo driving down a long darkened road, feels very Alanis Morrissette “Ironic,” but in a much more dark context. Flashes of her walking down the street, mountains in the background, and on the floor of a house with a keyboard, finding the perfect note. Each passing flashback (and potential forward) contrasting from light to dark, warm to cold, modelling a foundation of timeline.
Rodrigo is then framed in a red lit room, 60/70’s sunburst art on the wall, painted with the songs lyrics “you said forever.”
The next verse kicks up into a hopeful melody with the contrasting “…and all my friends are tired of hearing how much I miss you.” This connects back to the previous flashes cold and warm scenes with a longer hold of Rodrigo singing in the dark street under a single streetlamp. The music and lyrics continue to build to an emotional crescendo, “‘Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street.” Everything drops to near silence, the video shows Rodrigo falling and then immediately picked up by the bridge. Just like relationships, the rollercoaster of this song and video continues, earning each moment and inciting the listener/viewer with every step. Toward the end of the bridge is where the earned expletive is inserted, but at this moment, it is truly deserved.
The last chorus/outro is remarkable. Everything drops out of the song except Rodrigo and piano. The video plays in suit with the brooding atmosphere painted, and the walls of the emotional playback come crumbling down. Exposing the delicate nature in which all humans have under their built up exoskeleton. When we shed everything, we can present our vulnerable selves.
Since the first time I heard the song, it attached to my soul. Everything about it reminds me of the youthful thoughts I think we all had with our first loves and losses. Rodrigo is young (19), but this song has such maturity, as well as a playful nature. We as people could see ourselves in this position. Or at least think about what this may feel like. Taking a look in the mirror and knowing we have been here before, or at least relate.
Olivia Rodrigo was in potentially hot water with her inspirations in the last year. Some of her songs drew from other artists, but have been compensated since. I don’t think she took these influences without knowing what was right and wrong. Other mainstream artists came to her defense to publicly demonstrate these things are in a known “gray area” unlike sampling. If an artist is sampling, they are taking cuts from songs to create their song. Rodrigo used similar stylings in her songs, pulled from her inspirations. At least, this is my understanding without listening to the tracks in question as of yet.
I have yet to listen to the remaining tracks of “SOUR” (stylized in all caps), but I will give it a whirl. I know there are a few other of her songs I have heard on the radio and most likely didn’t know it was her. I have high expectations of the rest of the album based on this track and music video.