Spotify says history-making song Drivers License is 'unprecedented'

Even Spotify is marveling at the record-breaking success of Olivia Rodrigo's debut single.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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Jennifer Bisset
2 min read

Olivia Rodrigo at the 2019 premiere of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

Rachel Luna/FilmMagic

If you didn't know Olivia Rodrigo before, it'll be hard to miss her now. The Disney star dropped her official debut single, Drivers License, a week ago on Jan. 8. Cut to three days later and the song broke Spotify's record for most streams in a day for a nonholiday song, with over 15 million global plays (the song continued to beat its own record, with over 17 million streams the following day on Jan. 12).

In other words, Drivers License is the biggest song in the world right now. So how did that happen for a relatively unknown 17-year-old? Aside from the song's own merits -- an emotional power ballad about heartbreak -- its "unprecedented" success has a few other viral-making factors. (Go on, listen to it here.)

Even Spotify has chimed in on what led to the "perfect storm."

"There's truly no direct comparison here," Spotify's Global Hits lead Becky Bass told Billboard. "You have newer artists like Tones and I with Dance Monkey, or Lil Nas X and Old Town Road, which took a little bit longer to grow into chart-toppers." But the Spotify team has never seen "a newer artist that just comes out of the gate in such a dominant way, and just continues to grow."

"It really feels unprecedented, and likely is unprecedented," Bass said.

There are a few elements to the story. Rodrigo, who starred in Disney Channel sitcom Bizaardvark, has a massive following on TikTok and Instagram. Her engaged young audience "sparked the flame" before a shoutout from Taylor Swift and a plug from one of the Dolan Twins, comedians with nearly 11 million subscribers on YouTube, helped the song go viral.

Then there's the drama around Rodrigo's rumored relationship, and breakup, with fellow Disney star Joshua Bassett. Rodrigo and Bassett played a couple in the Disney Plus mockumentary series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Bassett is speculated to be the subject of Drivers License. The intrigue goes on: Bassett, also a singer, dropped his single, Lie Lie Lie, on Jan. 14.

"I definitely think it's a perfect storm," Spotify's Bass said. "I think the drama -- which was familiar to [Rodrigo's] core fanbase, and really started things going -- helped, and now you have this whole new audience that's like, "Who is Olivia Rodrigo? Who is Joshua Bassett?"

Regardless, the song's a banger. Here's the music video: