Was Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Basset’s Public Heartbreak Just a Publicity Stunt?


(Artwork/Kayla Zhang ‘24)

Josephine Baranski, Online Staff Writer

As a 16-year-old girl who passed her permit test just a few weeks ago and has started driving along the dangerous roads of central New Jersey, I–as well as many newly-driving highschool students–was excited to listen to 17-year-old Olivia Rodrigo’s hit song: “Driver’s License.” I am joined in on my belief by junior Andre Williams who notes, “I really vibe with the song. I think that Olivia is an incredible singer, and you can truly hear the emotion she is portraying.” Originally providing a rough clip of herself singing the song at the piano on her Instagram, Rodrigo officially released her song on January 8. It was an instantaneous hit. It reached 100 million streams on Spotify, became the highest non-holiday song streamed in one day, and reached the top of the Billboard Charts–partly due to the fact that teens sat in their room listening to the song on repeat for a whole weekend, pretending to sing to their imaginary boyfriend. No, I am not talking about myself!

 I believe the most interesting part of the song is not the music itself–though it is an amazing song–but rather the drama surrounding Rodrigo’s lyrics. She writes that an older boy, whom she loved, taught her how to drive, but when she finally got her driver’s license, the boy had run away with a “blond girl.” Understandably, Rodrigo is heart-broken as she drives through the suburbs while crying, thinking about her first love whom she misses dearly. There has been much speculation about who the song is about, but, most likely, Olivia Rodrigo is calling out Joshua Bassett, her co-star in High School Musical the Musical the Series. Basset is indeed dating Sabrina Carpenter, a blond girl best known by Gen Z for starring in the hit show Girl Meets World.   

Basset released his own song titled “Lie Lie Lie” on January 14, just 6 days after “Drivers License.” Though it is known Joshua wrote this song a year ago for a friend rather than Rodrigo, there has been much speculation over the credibility of their public drama. Furthermore, Sabrina Carpenter, the rumored “blond girl” to which Olivia is referring, almost definitely wrote her song “Skin” in response to “Drivers License”, singing “maybe you didn’t mean it, maybe blond was the only rhyme.” Senior Hayden Masia believes, “it is a publicity stunt. Period.” I would have to agree with Masia. I find it unusual that all three songs were released in the last month by obsolete artists, all three songs have become famous, all three singers have gained recognition, and all three brands have profited exponentially. Nevertheless, the circumstances of the drama matter little to those, like myself, invested in this love triangle. Freshman Ben Masia explains, “Olivia Rodrigo seems somewhat petty,” while I believe that Carpenter, a girl that is hardly the focal point of Rodrigo’s heartfelt song, should ignore the situation entirely. Nevertheless, highschool is notoriously known for fostering an environment in which teens get their heart broken daily. However, Olivia Rodrigo has taught us that we can find opportunity in our adolescent misery, as she has profited from her own problems and is better because of it. In many ways, she can serve as a beacon of hope as we all try to overcome our own struggles.