“drivers license” singer wins MTV VMAs’ Song of the Year

18-year old Fil-Am singer Olivia Rodrigo has been making history in the US music scene since earlier this year with her debut album Sour. Recently, she also became the youngest winner of the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) Song of the Year with her debut single “drivers license”.

If you’re lagging behind US pop culture news, get all caught up with these facts about the chart-topping singer below, including her Filipino heritage and the remarkable achievements she’s attained in just 8 months.

1. She got her Filipino heritage from her dad’s side of the family

Olivia Rodrigo - Filipino great-grandfather
Rodrigo’s great-grandparents
Image adapted from: Disney Channel

Just like any average Filipino, Rodrigo calls herself a lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) fan. In a video for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, she said that her Filipino paternal great-grandfather loves to cook Filipino food, which is how she knew the popular Pinoy celebration staple.

In the same video, she shared that her great-grandfather went to the US from the Philippines on a boat as a teen.

While Rodrigo’s dad is Filipino-American, her mom is a US citizen of German and Irish descent.

2. She started out as an actress

Olivia Rodrigo - An American Girl Grace Stirs Up Success
Rodrigo made her acting debut in
An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success at age 12
Image credit: IMDB

Before her singing career, Rodrigo started out as an actress. At the age of 12, she played the lead role in the 9th movie in the An American Girl film series An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success in 2015.

The following year, she became a Disney Channel star, playing one of the main roles in the comedy series Bizaardvark. She starred in the series for 3 seasons until 2019.

Prior to her first acting stint, Rodrigo also shot a commercial with the clothing brand Old Navy, says an article from The Columbus Dispatch.

These made way for Rodrigo to eventually star in a musical and jumpstart her career in music.

3. She played Gabriella Montez in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

High School Musical The Musical The Series
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series poster
Image credit: IMDB

Rodrigo played Nini Salazar-Roberts in the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

It’s a mockumentary inspired by the earlier film series which was released from 2006 to 2008. In the show’s first season, high school kids were cast in a High School Musical musical, which was how Rodrigo got to play the female lead role in the original film series, Gabriella Montez.

Rodrigo’s songwriting skills were first recognized in the series as she wrote some of the songs for it, with “All I Want” being the most popular.

She has so far starred in 2 seasons of the series up to 30 July 2021, coinciding with her current breakthrough music career.

4. Her debut single “drivers license” became a hit thanks to TikTok

Olivia Rodrigo - Driver's License 1
The cover of Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license”
Image credit: @oliviarodrigo

Rodrigo first shared the demo for “drivers license” on Instagram in July 2020 in a now-deleted or archived post. A teenage heartbreak song reminiscent of the earlier Taylor Swift releases, the then 17-year old received a ton of support for the song from the internet.

The chorus of the song had already gained popularity on TikTok before its release on 8 January 2021, which made people anticipate the release of the whole track. However, a TikTok trend set by @spoiledmel using the studio version of the song’s chorus posted on 9 January helped popularize the song even more. 

All these considered, 17-year old Rodrigo’s debut single immediately rose to the top of music streaming charts.

As of writing, the official audio has been used 1.5 million times and the hashtag #DriversLicense has a whopping 5.9 billion views on TikTok.

5. “drivers license” is allegedly about her High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett

Olivia Rodrigo - Joshua Bassett High School Musical The Musica The Series
Rodrigo and Bassett in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
Image credit: @joshuatbassett, Disney+

Fans speculate that the person Rodrigo sang about in “drivers license” was Joshua Bassett who played her love interest in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

Some fans speculate that Rodrigo and Bassett dated while filming the series, but fellow Disney star Sabrina Carpenter got in the way, hence the blonde older girl alluded to in the song.

Rodrigo has always deflected questions on whether “drivers license” is about Bassett, but he released a song, “Lie Lie Lie”, on 15 January. In it, Bassett talked about someone who has been spreading lies about him.

Just 2 weeks after “drivers license”, Carpenter also released her song “Skin” which is believed to be her response to Rodrigo’s song.

6. Taylor Swift dubbed her “my baby”

Olivia Rodrigo - Taylor Swift
“Thinking about legally changing my name to “Taylor Swifts [sic] baby”,” Rodrigo captioned her screenshot of Swift’s reply
Image credit: @Olivia_Rodrigo

A day after “drivers license”‘s release on 9 January, Rodrigo posted a screenshot of the iTunes chart on Instagram which showed her debut single just below 2 of Taylor Swift’s tracks from the album evermore.

On 11 January, Swift commented on the post, saying, “I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud.”

A fan of Swift’s since she was a kid, Rodrigo posted this interaction on Twitter and captioned it with “thinking about legally changing my name to “Taylor Swifts [sic] baby””.

7. She set records with her debut album Sour

Sours album cover
Image credit: @oliviarodrigo

Besides “drivers license”, which set Rodrigo’s record as the youngest artist to debut at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 at age 17, she has also achieved many other records with her debut album Sour in which “drivers license” is included.

The album, released on 21 May 2021, debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 200. It then spent 5 weeks at number 1, becoming the longest-running number 1 album by a female artist in 2021

All 11 tracks on the album had also entered in the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100, making Rodrigo the first female artist to chart 11 songs simultaneously

These are only a few of Rodrigo’s achievements from her debut album.

8. She is MTV VMAs’ youngest Song of the Year winner

Olivia Rodrigo - VMAs Song of the Year
Rodrigo receiving her Song of the Year award at the 2021 VMAs
Image credit: @MTV

On 12 September, Rodrigo won Song of the Year for “drivers license” at the MTV VMAs. At 18 years old, she is the youngest artist to ever win the award.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her fans for “the most magical year of her life” and dedicated her win to “all of the other girls who write songs on their bedroom floor.”

She also won Best New Artist and Push Performance of the Year at the same event and is among the most-awarded artists at the 2021 MTV VMAs, alongside K-pop boy group sensation BTS and US rapper Lil Nas X.

Fil-Am singer Olivia Rodrigo is the VMAs’ youngest Song Of The Year winner

With impressive songwriting skills, powerful vocals, and a little help from the internet, a young Filipina woman is dominating the US music industry.

It’s only the start of Olivia Rodrigo’s career, so we’re definitely looking forward to plenty more bangers she’ll put out and the records she’ll break in the future.

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Cover image adapted from: Disney Channel and @oliviarodrigo 


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