When Disney star Olivia Rodrigo announced her debut single ‘driver’s license’ back in January, many would have guessed she would follow the paths of other Disney stars debuts: a solid, but not massive hit that earned her a small but potent fan-base. Very few could anticipated the zeitgeist-capturing phenomenon it would become. Then again, very few could have anticipated just how incredible a song it would be. Within the week, Rodrigo went from up-and-comer to pop’s next big thing. Breaking countless Spotify records and earning weeks atop charts worldwide, Rodrigo’s status pop’s biggest star seemingly hinged on her follow-up single. With ‘deja vu,’ Rodrigo has seemingly solidified that status – and then some.
With ‘deja vu,’ Rodrigo delivers on the artistic front wonderfully. Though less commercial than ‘driver’s license,’ ‘deja vu’ is just as marvellous sonically, driving further into the indie sound and away from the huge pop balladry of ‘driver’s license,’ building itself around rolling indie drums rather than piano synths. While ‘driver’s license’ channelled the massiveness of one of Rodrigo’s idols, Lorde, ‘deja vu’ follows in the footsteps of Rodrigo’s other inspiration Taylor Swift.
The track delves deeply into the minute moments of a relationship in pure Swiftian fashion, making the slightest details feel significant and universal: “Car rides to Malibu / Strawberry ice cream, one spoon for two / And tradin’ jackets / Laughin’ ’bout how small it looks on you.” There are some vague undertones of misogyny to the track that also feel quite Swiftian, but they are not overt nor do they detract from the track’s brilliance. ‘deja vu’ is extremely reminiscent of Swift’s own ‘Cruel Summer,’ most notably the bridge, which arrives in a rush of detailed lyricism and chanted vocals.
Many artists have had massive debut singles and failed to ever recapture the greatness of it. Swift and Lorde are two examples of artists that have managed to avoid the status of one-hit wonder. Following in their footsteps feels like the perfect plan to avoid it, and Rodrigo proves that. She brilliantly allows her inspiration to guide her talent, taking just enough to capture echoes of her idols, while carving her own unique sound and aesthetic. If ‘driver’s license’ was Rodrigo’s ‘Love Story; or ‘Royals,’ then ‘deja vu’ is her ‘You Belong With Me’ or ‘Green Light,’ propelling her towards the kind of creative dependability that makes a true pop star.