Music News

The Year in Music 2021: Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘SOUR’ brings her sweet rewards


In 2020, not many people beyond fans of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series knew who Olivia Rodrigo was. By the time 2021 ended, she was a household name.

–Olivia’s rise from Disney star to chart-topping global pop superstar began in January, when she released her song “drivers license.” The tale of heartbreak quickly became a TikTok sensation, as fans searched for clues to Olivia’s own love life in the lyrics.

–“drivers license” debuted at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, making Olivia the youngest artist ever to do so.  It was the top-streamed song of 2021 on Spotify, and inspired a popular sketch on Saturday Night Live.

–“drivers license” was followed by the hits “Deja Vu,” “Good 4 U” and “Traitor,” all of which hit the top 10, with “Good 4 U” topping the Hot 100. Olivia is the first artist in history to have their first three singles debut in the top 10.

–When Olivia’s debut album SOUR was released in May, it debuted at number one and broke the Spotify record for the most-streamed album in a week by a female artist.  All 11 tracks from the album charted in the top 30 on the Hot 100, making Olivia the first female artist to achieve that feat.

–Fans loved SOUR, but so did critics.  Rolling Stone named it the best album of 2021, and it brought Olivia seven Grammy nominations. At 18 years old, she’s now the second-youngest artist in history, after Billie Eilish, to receive nods in the “Big Four” Grammy categories — Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist — in the same year.

–Olivia was also named New Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards, as well as Variety‘s Songwriter of the Year.  She also received Apple Music’s Album, Song and Breakthrough Artist of the Year awards.

–After starring in the livestream concert film SOUR Prom in June, Olivia announced her 2022 SOUR tour in December. It starts in April in San Francisco and will visit more than 40 cities across North America and Europe.

–Olivia, whose father is Filipino, became a role model for Asian girls. She told V magazine, “I sometimes get DMs from little girls being like, ‘I’ve never seen someone who looked like me in your position.'”

–The one dark spot in Olivia’s 2021 was the accusation that she “stole” or “copied” some of her music and artwork from other artists, some of whom — including Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams of Paramore — were later given songwriting credit on Olivia’s album. 

Addressing the controversy with Teen Vogue, Olivia said, “I think it’s disappointing to see people take things out of context and discredit any young woman’s work…Nothing in music is ever new. There’s four chords in every song. That’s the fun part — trying to make that your own.”

(Note: “drivers license” video contains uncensored profanity.)

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