Last year belonged to Olivia Rodrigo as she started off her year with an all-time big hit in “drivers license” and rose to pop stardom with her punk moment in “good 4 u” ahead of the rollout of her massive first album, Sour. Following her entrance into the music industry in such a big way, Rodrigo presents her first era as an artist visually with the new Disney+ film, Driving Home 2 U and as a fan of the singer from day one, I had a lot of feelings while watching it. I was practically reliving my teen angst.
Sour spoke for itself in a lot of ways when Olivia Rodrigo put out the album last spring. The debut album is about the downfalls of first love and teendom when the former doesn’t work out as you’d expect. It tells the story of devastating heartbreak and Rodrigo’s feelings and thoughts as she watches an ex (widely thought to be High School Musical: The Musical co-star Josh Bassett) move on with another girl. Now that Driving Home 2 U is available to watch with a Disney+ subscription, let’s get into how the special made me feel:
First of all, Driving Home 2 U completely takes one into the headspace of being a teenager, which is often filled with dread, especially when it comes to dealing with big emotions for the first time in relationships. From the top of the Disney+ special, Olivia Rodrigo really takes you into her mindset while she was writing the record, and with the series of new performances of each song from the record, I could really feel the themes of the record more intensely than ever. A performance of “jealousy, jealousy” early in the movie shows that Rodrigo really knows how to deliver that punk-flair to soundtrack slamming your bedroom door for the drama.
It didn’t take too long before I found myself feeling wistful and some waterworks at the back of my eyeballs when Olivia Rodrigo sang the songs on Sour. The singer opens the movie up with “happier” before going to “1 step forward, 3 steps back” in the beginning of the film, the latter being performed with Rodrigo alone in the back of a car as she strums on her guitar. “1 step forward” hits home some of the most stinging themes on the album about Rodrigo being pulled into confusion before it eventually goes sideways. I was especially moved to see how such an uncomfortable feeling can be weaved into a song as a way for the young singer to channel her feelings.
Soon after Olivia Rodrigo introduces her inspirations for the record, the movie takes its viewers on the journey of her first hit, “drivers license,” which would take her to big stages like The Brits and SNL to perform the hit. Driving Home 2 U does a flashback to Rodrigo plinking around on a keyboard to the song before it was as massive of a song as it is today. I was inspired by Rodrigo taking music she casually came up with in her room about a hard breakup into a huge moment in pop music. Remember when she was simply a talented breakout star in the High School Musical series?
Driving Home 2 U also offers fans quite a bit of insight into the making of Sour and some of the decisions and feelings she had while writing the music and releasing them. For example, Rodrigo was very aware of the love triangle conversation she was perpetuating even before “deja vu” was released and led to fans rumoring that Joshua Bassett and Sabrina Carpenter were the subject of the tunes. Bassett was unfortunately the center of a lot of backlash and fan hate due to fans believing he was the one who broke Rodrigo’s heart so badly, and it’s clear in this special that Rodrigo had anxieties over this when rolling out her record. At the end of the day, divulging her personal experiences is part of being an artist, but it’s interesting to hear more about what it was like to bring the world into it with the release of her music.
My absolute favorite moment of Driving Home 2 U happens over halfway through when her “good 4 u” performance unfolds. The singer brings an incredible new version of the hit, inspired by the likes of Paramore’s “Misery Business” when she sings the song with an orchestral arrangement. The version is absolutely epic and spine-chilling and shows how her music can rock through different arrangements. The new version of the breakup track is incredible and really shows that Rodrigo has come into her own musically at the age of 19.
Olivia really struts her stuff later in the special as well when she performs a great rendition of her opening track “Brutal” in what looks to be a plane wreckage. In between learning about how the angry song came about, we also see some behind-the-scenes moments of Rodrigo really struggling with second-guessing herself and not being able to see how talented and incredible she is. Of course she’s a teenager and it’s relatable to go into a bit of imposter syndrome and such when becoming such a huge name in music, but I felt a little sour for her. One because it’s not easy to see someone so talented not believe in one’s self and two, because of how it can strike a chord when you see someone else having behaviors you do that you aren’t necessarily proud of. Together we’ll work on remembering and believing in our power, Olivia!
Coming out of Driving Home 2 U, the most prevalent feeling I had following the emotional rollercoaster of reliving the record through the special is how proud I am of Olivia Rodrigo as a fan. It’s clear the singer is just getting started and quite young in the middle of just big girl success. In the Disney+ movie she really shows off a particular and unique flair she brings to the world as a pop star and I immediately found myself looking at concert dates (of course they are sold out).
The movie really brings excitement for Rodrigo as an artist as she continues to grow older. And as Olivia says in the movie, I too am looking forward to a time when she’s not quite as “sad” as she was while making Sour. Though she certainly took some bad feelings and made something beautiful out of it we can all share with her.
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