Olivia Rodrigo hit the ground running with sentimental single ‘Driver’s License’ in January this year. Released when Rodrigo was just 17, it acted as an encore for several popular ballads she released as a cast member of High School Musical: The Series. After gaining rapid traction through apps such as Tik Tok, Youtube and Instagram, her melodic lamentation of lost love topped singles charts across the world. It is currently the most listened to song of 2021. This fast-spread of notoriety skyrocketed this once quiet Californian actor to the new status of world’s youngest pop superstar.
A New Chapter in the Drivers License Saga
The tremendous triumph of ‘Driver’s License’ left many of us wondering if Rodrigo’s next single could do it again. Would she become the pop scene’s next biggest name or instead suffer the fate of a one-hit-wonder? Today Olivia Rodrigo answered by releasing ‘Deja Vu’.
A small taste of her upcoming debut album, Rodrigo gives a subtle nod to the aesthetic of her ‘Drivers License’ music video. The song’s promotional images depicted Rodrigo driving to Malibu in a blue convertible. These images hinted correctly that ‘Deja Vu’ would continue to document Oliva’s journey following her breakup with High School Musical costar Joshua Bassett. In this regard, ‘Deja Vu’ does not disappoint. Olivia Rodrigo is still exploring the concept of heartbreak through her music, making this new song the latest installment in the ‘Drivers License Saga’.
One Foot in The Present, Another in The Past
In the freshest part of the track, Rodrigo expresses her frustration and belief that she is being replaced. The song acts as a hybrid of new and old concepts, showing that the artist is not only still reflecting on the past (much like she was ‘Driver’s License’) but is also focusing on the present moment and what it may mean for both of them to move on. Rodrigo’s lyrics romanticize key moments in her past relationship, like sharing strawberry ice-cream with one spoon and watching re-runs of Glee (a couple of extreme Gen Z trademarks). She then speculates that the ex probably does all of these things with their new girlfriend as well.
What ‘Deja Vu’ Does Well
Three positive aspects of the track are this. Firstly, its lyrics are heavy with emotion. Rodrigo continues to come across as an all too relatable broken-hearted teenage girl. (Which covers Rodrigo’s demographic perfectly.)
Secondly the concept is sound. ‘Deja Vu’ draws on several familiar elements of ‘Drivers License’ while taking the theme further. The track offers an interesting take on heartbreak, with Rodrigo reminiscing about her past relationships while with a new partner. Her exploration of the idea of Deja Vu gives us some interesting symbolism and is a really cool poetic concept. Like ‘Drivers License’ it has a dramatic buildup to a grand chorus. With a beat which would sound at home on Lorde‘s haunting material from Melodrama, the single is also reminiscent of many tracks in Hayley Kiyoko’s album This Side of Paradise and, more notably, Girls Like Girls.
Thirdly Rodrigo’s offers hints about other popular artists within the piece. The singer wants to know if her ex (who is assumed to be Joshua Bassett) is experiencing Deja Vu from dating someone extremely similar to her (presumably fellow actor Sabrina Carpenter). Rodrigo may also make the subtle suggestion this new partner is a low quality substitute.
Where ‘Deja Vu’ Falls Flat
Three aspects that I disliked from this album all center around its relevancy. Although it is entertaining following the drama of the world’s most popular love triangle, I can’t help but question how long the situation will remain relevant. Adding to this is the song’s likeness to ‘Driver’s License’ itself. ‘Deja Vu’ explores similar topics, the same theme and has an all too similar electro pop backing track. This leads me to question if Rodrigo is playing overly safe.
Is ‘Deja Vu’ Worthwhile?
‘Deja Vu’ has some appealing elements. It hints that Rodrigo might have more to offer. This being said ‘Deja Vu’ struggles to match the colossal impact of her breakthrough single. For these reasons, and taking into account the originality of the track, I give the ‘Deja Vu’ a solid five out of ten stars.
Heavy with emotion
Fun take on familiar concept
Lacks impact of 'Drivers License'
How long can this love triangle hold our attention?