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Pop – Punk Has a Driver’s License

For an outsider, pop punk music can be recognized as a way in. An escape from oneself, if you want to put it to such extremes. The doldrums of their lives they want to leave behind for a few simple minutes and slip away into the ecstasy of a guitar driven, amped up, screaming wild world. And yes, that includes sad songs with happy tunes that are also relatable. It is no wonder pop punk music is so appealing to adolescents. This genre of music has captured the souls of so many listeners across generations and around the world. Some artists and bands involved in the pop punk scene are Avril Lavigne, Green Day, Blink 182, and Paramore. I grew up listening to these musicians and could not help but notice this up-in-coming artist is making waves in the pop – punk scene just like they did. I also could not get this one song out of my head for the longest time, so I took it as a sign to write about her. I believe Olivia Rodrigo is going to change the course of pop – punk music history and here is why.

Primarily recognized for Disney Channel shows like Bizzardvark and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Olivia Rodrigo first entered the music scene with her hit single Driver’s License in January of 2021 when she was just seventeen years old, turning her into an overnight sensation. You might be asking, why was this song so popular? It is just about some girl getting her driver’s license, totally not a big deal.

Until it was a big deal. The song first went viral on the popular social media app, TikTok, and remained number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for nine weeks. That is a while for a song to be number one, especially for someone just entering the music scene. This made Olivia a household name in pop music among Generation Z. In the following months, she released her debut record SOUR, which was heavily influenced by the punk scene (obvious to anyone listening to hit tracks Good 4 U or Brutal).

Drawing inspiration from your influences is incredible. But what happens when your song sounds too like someone else’s? Olivia has been compared to the likes of various artists on many of her tracks: Taylor Swift, Alanis Morissette, and Avril Lavigne. The media loves to make it seem like she lacks originality. Even going as far as accusing her of plagiarizing Swift, acting if she is the only artist on the planet that is allowed to write about her feelings after a breakup. She has also been critized for sounding too young on her records, only writing songs about petty breakups and high school drama. The plainly obvious reason for this is that she was only seventeen or eighteen at the time of this record’s release. Of course, she was going to create songs about teenage angst, breakups, and not having a clue what you are doing with your life. That’s what teenagers are supposed to be writing about.

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A couple of weeks ago, on September 8th, Olivia released her sophomore album titled GUTS where she really lets those punk – rock influences shine and her vocal range on this record is beyond incredible, highlighting her maturity as the years have processed. Tracks such as All – American Bitch and Balled of a Homeschooled Girl discuss her positive and negative personality traits, such as ‘being pretty when I cry / I’m the eternal optimist’ and how to not be able to read certain social situations due to her being homeschooled all her life. ‘Every time I step outside, it’s social suicide’ while tracks like Making the Bed and Teenage Dream talk about her fears of growing up. She sings ‘Another day pretending I’m older than I am / But it’s me who’s still making the bed’ and ‘Will I spend all the rest of my years wishing I could go back?’ Another fear we can all relate to in some shape or form. Another thing about adolescents, like I mentioned either, they love their guitars and antsy sounds. I think Olivia hits that expectation right on the nose. She also writes her own lyrics and co-produced all of her songs on her sophomore record, GUTS, which is another aspect of originality she has and how people are able to relate to her even more.

I can see how easily people are persuaded to think the worst and how Olivia emulates Taylor. After all, I used to think the same way about Olivia. I used to hate the pop, autotuned machinery that came from the so-called new generation. It sucked! Bring back the early 2000’s! She was so popular for no reason, everyone was constantly posting the overplayed Driver’s License on their Instagram stories, dancing and lip-syncing along. I could not understand it. I thought her lyrics were relatable, but what is all this drama? For what, a little teenage angst. I was so critical of her before I even heard her music. Looking back, I guess I could see why. I almost didn’t want people to judge me for listening to her music. I didn’t want to fall into the category of ‘Oh, you know who this artist is so you must listen to her’, of course, I knew her name, but I didn’t want to be stereotyped solely based off the generation I was born into.

However, you must admit she knows her audience. Teenagers just want to listen to music they can relate to, and Olivia knows this, being close to our age as well (for reference she is 20). Whether you are a fan of her music or not, there is no denying that she knows how to make you laugh, cry, dance, and make you so mad at someone you rip out all the pages in your new poetry book.

I believe with Olivia Rodrigo’s relatable lyrics, her pop – punk driven sound, witty personality, engaging instruments, she can change the course of pop – punk history for the better and teach the next generations their ever-growing love for pop – punk music just like all the greats that came before her.

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