Olivia Rodrigo passes driver’s test, goes viral

drivers license, Olivia Rodrigo

Is there a new Taylor Swift in town?

Many have come and gone in music attempting to replicate the profoundly detailed specificity that comes from a Taylor Swift song. Though many have come and gone with this mentality, one singer has made her mark. Coming from one of the flagship Disney+ series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, breakout star Olivia Rodrigo has gone viral with her debut solo single, “drivers license.”

The 17 year-old songwriting pop hopeful releases the track fresh off her new deal with Interscope. In the vein of Swift, the track details confessional lyricism over a chamber of guitars and bedroom pop electronica. Its a simple, focused lament of losing one’s first love. Also in the vein of Swift is its instant media coverage appeal. Allegedly crooning to her co-star and ex, Joshua Bassett, Rodrigo gives fans of the series and newcomers have their latest scandal to escape into in an era when the news has never felt more chaotic or depressing.

Rodrigo cleverly utilizes a specific memory, a point in time when hope flooded the rooms of conversations with her partner. Teaching her to drive, her ex is now nowhere to be found when the singer earns her license. Left to her own devices, she solemnly drives through his street and the encompassing suburbs. A little bit “White Horse” a little bit “Green Light,” the single hits.

What made “drivers license” viral wasn’t necessarily its quality. It’s strong singer-songwriter pop, but the viral nature of its continued success is credited to a few things bigger than the track itself.

In a new year continuing to be characterized by grief, solitude and nostalgia, listeners are flocking to the melancholy. Like SZA’s latest single, “Good Days,” Rodrigo’s tune capitalizes on today’s collective consciousness. Additionally, the general public’s continued reliance on technology, namely the social media smash hit TikTok, has boosted the reach of the single and its mass resonance.

Finally, on top of it all, the themes of the song actually give listeners a socially distant activity to partake in during this prolonged quarantine. They can now shout scream the song and its sticky bridge and film themselves while doing so. Thus, the cyclical trend will flood the gates of TikTok until it exhausts itself.

More interesting, though, will be how Rodrigo capitalizes on this surprise and abrupt success. All eyes will be watching as this rising talent continues her upward trajectory into the digital age of pop music.


Chloe x Halle level up on ‘Ungodly Hour’

Chloe x Halle, Ungodly Hour
Ungodly Hour, Parkwood Entertainment

There’s a moment in the middle of Chloe x Halle’s stunning sophomore effort, Ungodly Hour, when their evolved personas really take shape. “When you don’t have to think about it, love me at the ungodly hour,” the duo coos on the title track.

Its this newfound confidence, self-assuredness and effortless cool that echoes throughout the immaculate 13-track collection. The duo has evolved as artists, women and performers – and this development shines as brightly as the chrome angel wings on the album’s artwork.

Drawing inspiration from modern and 80s Pop, throwback R&B, Hip Hop and elements of Blues, Chloe x Halle are able to refine the strongest sounds of their debut The Kids Are Alright and double down on what sets them apart from peers in their genre.

The album is instantly gripping with “Intro” and “Forgive Me,” establishing the two as strong, unapologetic, and independent. The openers immediately set the tone for a complete evolution.

The self-actualization continues on “Baby Girl,”  a tropically influenced mid tempo bop. More, the track is an internal pep talk to keep pushing and turning dreams into realities.

This narrative bleeds into the album’s second single, their most accessible track to date in “Do It.” Light, groovy, and lots of fun, “Do It” could be the breakout that shoots the duo to superstardom.

One of the strongest elements to the record is its cheeky attitude. It’s abundantly clear Chloe x Halle are having fun on several of these tracks. On “Tipsy,” the sisters playfully threaten their lovers with a fatal ultimatum. “If you love your little life, don’t fuck up,” they command.

On “Busy Boy,” the singers kiss off immature boys and their wandering, noncommittal attitudes. Both tracks lean heavily in the pop space, a perfect reflection of the lyrical tone of the songs.

“Ungodly Hour” is a well kept secret and pleasant surprise. Chloe x Halle enlist the help of Disclosure for production on the track, a well placed declaration of their worth.

Ironically, one of the weaker moments on Ungodly Hour comes in the some of the biggest collaborations. Mike WILL Made-It and Swae Lee visit to deliver “Catch Up,” the album’s decent but forgettable lead single. Its the rare moment on the record that feels overly pandering to an audience more than happy to sit back and hear the exclusive talents of the songstresses.

Arriving at “Overwhelmed,” one of the many stripped down vocal gymnastic interludes the women have made their signature, Chloe x Halle take the opportunity to be vulnerable. Maintaining the bounce of rest of the tracks, “Lonely” dives deeper with lyrics that are so intimate it feels as if Chloe x Halle are in the room with the listeners, comforting them with words of affirmation.

They turn the attention inward on the final moments of the album. “Don’t Make It Harder On Me” relates the complexity of being in a relationship when someone else grabs one’s attention. The song may have benefitted from a quieter production with the vocals taking up more of the spotlight, but it remains a gripping and vocally impressive inclusion to the track list.

“Wonder What She Thinks of Me” succeeds where “Harder on Me” falters. Halle’s vocals are astonishing, only further supplemented by the emotion delivered by Chloe. Their complementary sounds have never blended better than on this track.

What’s most brilliant about the record and the multi-talented Chloe x Halle is just that – their talent. Bringing together innovative production (“Tipsy”), unparalleled vocals (“Don’t Make it Harder On Me”) and nuanced songwriting (“Lonely”), the duo are unmatched in focus and consistency.

Ending with “ROYL,” Chloe x Halle remind the listener they are still the playful girls of The Kids Are Alright. Only now, they have scars and mistakes, and they are better for them.

“Watch out world, I’m grown now,” Chloe x Halle asserted on their debut. With Ungodly Hour, they prove it.


The Weeknd delivers an ‘After Hours’ session worth waiting for

It’s 2011. The 2010s have brought new artists, new sounds, and new ways of listening to music. From the depths of the underground comes a shiny new artist: The Weeknd. Cryptic and mysterious, but all the more interesting, the Canadian R&B songster presents a juicy blend of Michael Jackson and The-Dream.

It’s now 2020. Nearly a decade has passed and The Weeknd has had one of the most transformative careers of men in pop music. From his experimental debut studio album narrating a life on tour in KissLand to his first foray into provocative bubblegum pop in Starboy, to a headlining slot at one of the biggest music festivals on the planet, The Weeknd has constantly reinvented himself. With each new project, he’s peeled back a layer of himself for the world to see. Something, though, has always been left to mystery.

"After Hours" The Weeknd
After Hours, Republic Records

Enter After Hours.

His first album in nearly five years, After Hours is a raw, precise, and enlightening glimpse into The Weeknd as he is today – flaws and all. Over 14 tracks dipped in glossy production and pristine vocal delivery, the singer opens the door to a new world.

The record exists in the same universe as Starboy. The reputation to his 1989, the Blackout to his In the Zone, After Hours is Starboy‘s darker, more emotionally indulgent sequel. The 80s synths and Max Martin presence are still present, but the largest change is a well established theme of loss and increased concession of honesty.

It’s not that he discusses topics left unexplored in past efforts, it’s instead The Weeknd’s willingness to speak from a place of deeper vulnerability. Perhaps a product of age, time or growth, this newfound sense of integrity is a welcome evolution.

Take the comparison of Starboy hit “Sidewalks” and After Hours highlight “Snowchild” as an example.

“Homeless to Forbes list,” he boasts on “Sidewalks.” It relates to his rags to riches history, not unlike many Hollywood success stories. It’s a very surface-level head banger.

With “Snowchild,” The Weeknd goes deeper.

He paints the unfiltered portrait of that life on the streets, with drug-dealing friends and near suicidal times illustrating the world around him. The artist’s newfound ability to shape a compelling narrative is what sets this album apart from Starboy and much of his other work.

To add to the successful narrative streamline is an expertly crafted album structure. Songs bleed from one to the next, trickling down as The Weeknd opens one wound after another. These transitions are most impressive in moments like “Hardest To Love” and “Scared To Live,” as well as in “Faith” and “Blinding Lights.”

Not only in production but in subject matter and lyricism, these songs grip the listener and provide an immersive listening experience. The Weeknd’s consciousness has never sounded more fully realized. He pays homage to his earlier days with the beat-switching ambience of tracks “Escape From LA,” “Faith,” and album opener “Alone Again.” The latter acts as an immediately engaging introduction into the world of the album.

Though there are many highs and layers worth exploring, the album is far from flawless. Towards the back half of the album’s run is a slight rough patch through which The Weeknd drags listeners. Pandering to the masses in a way that discredits the work as a piece of art, the radio inclined “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears” take the album off the map and onto the Top 40.

Though the former has a sticky enough hook and saxophone loop to bypass its obvious ploy for streams and radio play, the latter falters. “Save Your Tears” isn’t a bad song, it just doesn’t have a reason to exist or a storyline that hasn’t already been covered on the record (i.e., “Scared To Live”).

One of the most pleasant surprises on After Hours is the Kevin Parker-assisted interlude that brings the album back on track after it’s wrong turn. One of the more experimental tracks from a production standpoint, the interlude provides the necessary relief before the final set.

After Hours is perhaps The Weeknd’s most cohesive body of work to date. With a singular vision in terms of aesthetic and visual scope, harmoniously weaved together sound, and candid sincerity, The Weeknd extends his already impressive career with the ease of a veteran.