I already held a bias toward Olivia Rodrigo when actress and singer Sabrina Carpenter dropped her song “Skin” on Jan. 22. I was quick to write Carpenter off as “petty” for writing a song as an alleged response to Rodrigo’s No. 1 hit “drivers license.”
Both songs are rumored to be about Joshua Bassett, an actor and singer who stars in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” with Rodrigo. Many fans think the two were in a relationship until Bassett broke up with Rodrigo to date Sabrina Carpenter, Bassett’s alleged long-time crush.
Thus, “drivers license” was born.
The song resonated with millions of people around the world. Even though it was only released Jan. 8, it made its way onto the US Billboard 100, hitting No. 1 by Jan. 19. Almost instantly, people put the pieces together and realized that Carpenter was the “blonde girl” mentioned in the lyrics of the song.
Despite there only being four short lines in “drivers license” referencing the “blonde girl,” people felt the effects of Rodrigo’s heartfelt lyrics and some seemed to even take it personally. Fans of Rodrigo made TikToks bashing Carpenter and videos of them crying while “drivers license” was playing.
I don’t blame them at all. As someone who has also had a previous partner leave me for a “blonde girl,” those lyrics hit me, too. I shouted those lyrics like nobody’s business.
Apparently, many other people felt the same way, and the hate toward Carpenter exploded. Although I didn’t hate Carpenter, I empathized with Rodrigo.
Then, I saw a TikTok that changed my perspective.
Someone had made a video with the caption of something along the lines of, “Let’s not act like you wouldn’t also be petty if your man’s ex was saying how she still loved him.” Suddenly, the way I saw both songs changed completely. “Drivers license” was no longer the anthem of a heartbroken girl, it was an ex-girlfriend confessing to the world that she still loves her ex, who is in a relationship. Rodrigo even called him “babe” in her song.
That one TikTok didn’t suddenly make me a fan of Carpenter, but it helped me to understand her perspective more than I did before. Though I don’t think she should’ve written a whole song dedicated to Rodrigo over four lines of ambiguous lyrics about her, Sabrina does not deserve to be hated.
Like she sang in “Skin,” “You been tellin’ your side, so I’ll be tellin’ mine.”
I understand both Rodrigo’s and Carpenter’s sides. Did Carpenter have to rub salt into a wound that she now had Rodrigo’s man? Of course not, but was it also a bit disrespectful to mention a “blonde girl” who was easy to figure out, potentially causing rumors and speculation? Yes.
It might be good to also mention that even though Carpenter was getting the brunt of the backlash, she still implored her fans not to send hate toward anyone’s way. As of now, Rodrigo hasn’t said anything to her fans about moderating their comments toward anyone. One can argue that it’s not her responsibility to do that, but considering how she broke Spotify’s record of most streams in a day, she holds a lot of power.
At the end of the day, these are simply two songs written by influential women telling their stories on their experiences with one man. There is no right or wrong here. One person can share how they feel, and the other has the right to respond to it.
Isn’t that beautiful, though? Through the power of music, two women were able to influence the world into feeling what they felt. That’s what I call incredible.