Olivia Rodrigo and “The medium is the message” – Part 1

So, this song Drivers License has come out and completely exploded!

Well, if you don’t know who she is you can officially wear an “out-of-touch” badge. She is a Disney star, known for High School Musical the Musical the Show and Bizardvark. This song has completely exploded in popularity and has broken many records in its wake.

It debuted first on the Bilboard where its been for the past 6 weeks. You’d think this song is from one of the greatest singer of our time – Beyonce, Rihanna (we need an album RiRi), or Jay-Z, but this song is form Olivia Rodrigo. Who?

I had never heard of her before, I had seen this song recommended multiple times for me on YouTube, but what made me interested in this topic was a video by YouTube “Todd in The Shadows.” He posted this video:

In it, he developed 5 theories as to why this song has broken so many records. Here’s the theories:

Theory 1 – The pandemic is still going one! It has struck a chord. No new music coming out, no end in sight, and still waiting for reopening. He mentions how there was an opening in the market and this song has filled it.

Theory 2 – Mouse Money! She’s a Disney start, they have the means to manipulate the market. So no surprise there. However, no other pop start from Disney has broken so many records before.

Theory 3 – People are sad a trend that’s been going on! Lot’s of new music coming out that’s slower in tempo… but no one has stuck and made such an impact.

Theory 4 – This is a great song actually! It is a song for a very specific age group (“not for adults”). It is a emotionally true song and teenagers cry alot.

Theory 5 – Hot Celeb Goss!

Oh My God Wow GIF

There’s a love triangle thing going on. Olivia was with Joshua Bassett who is now with Sabrina Carpenter. They all have songs out now you could say “diss track fight….” But they aren’t as popular as hers. But could astroturfing generate this much buzz?

Todd finishes the video explaining that this song may not be the greatest hit of the decade, but it will resonate in the future.


Alright, that’s the contex.

After watching this video, I started thinking about how much impact this song breaking records has had and what that says about the future of the entertainment industry.

We are talking 132 MILLION views on YouTube (on Feb 24, 2021); it was released a month ago! It has over 430 MILLION streams on Spotify! These are crazy numbers. Let alone its popularity on TikTok.

Well, TikTok has its history but one cannot deny it’s influence in the younger generation. Therefore, we need to talk about that!

I believe this song’s popularity is the first symptom of something bigger.

Teenagers have a voice in today’s entertainment world. They have grown up with the internet and finding their own entertainment online. Unlike most older people that were fed entertainment through their parents (listening to old CDs from your uncle, watching mom’s favorite movie, etc…). they have been able to develop their own circles and chose what represents them the best.

There’s also a dark side that I can’t stop thinking about: There’s so much data on teenagers today that I don’t think it would be impossible to collect and analyze it to create “the perfect hit.”

After all, they are the largest population online. One might disagree and say that EVERONE has a phone, however, younger people “engage” online; they comment, like, share a lot more than older people(it is hard to make this claim and I can’t find much on it -RESEARCH ALERT!- But there’s a lot coming out about political engagement online).

So what does all of this mean?

The first thought that crossed my mind was from good-ol’ McLuhan:

The medium is the message!

What do you think? Thinking of this quote and this context. What does the medium TikTok has to say?

Let’s discuss that in part 2!

Published by Vitoria, no C

Instructional Assistant Professor at Illinois State University BFA in Graphic Design and New Art Media from the University of North Dakota MFA in Graphic Design from Iowa State University

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