Opposite host Keegan-Michael Key, the 18-year-old singer and actor joins a small club of young celebrities who have appeared on SNL. Other young guests include Britney Spears at 18, Justin Bieber at 16 and, in 1982, Drew Barrymore at 7.
Kicking off her SNL appearance, Rodrigo performed her hit track “drivers license.” The purple lights and her pink dress both contributed to the lovesick emotions embedded in the song. Later, the lights changed to a red color to mirror the angst-filled undertones of the track.
Due to COVID-19, Rodrigo has only sung “drivers license” live a handful of times, including her performance at the BRIT Awards last week. It marked her first performance in the U.K. On SNL, her soaring vocals were the shining factor of the performance and solidified the singer’s newfound pop star status.
When “drivers license” was initially released earlier this year, it found virality as a Gen Z anthem through TikTok. It quickly became the center of many popular trends, including one where users show off their glow-ups. Soon after, the song was at the top of multiple streaming charts, including Spotify’s Viral 50 chart. It even got a stripped-back rendition from YUNGBLUD when he covered the song in February.
Rodrigo took to social media to explain how the track came to fruition. After getting her driver’s license last year, she posted how she was excited to drive through the suburbs and cry. After doing exactly that, she realized the situation would make a great song. So naturally, she went to the piano and began crafting what we now know as “drivers license.”
This week wasn’t the first time Rodrigo’s song has been on the SNL stage. Last February, Bridgerton star Regé-Jean Page made his SNL hosting debut (S46, E13) and took part in a “drivers license”-themed skit with other cast members.
The sketch sees a group of friends playing pool in a bar when Page’s character puts the song on through the jukebox. At first, the men are skeptical of it. However, as the track continues, they begin analyzing and connecting to its message. Kate McKinnon’s character even says, “Boys, open your hearts and listen. We’re about to get the bridge of our lives.”
Rodrigo’s second performance of the night was of her new song “good 4 u,” only released one day prior to her SNL appearance. The track showcases Rodrigo’s rock capabilities as the song leans toward a more pop-punk sound. It also stays in line with the teen angst, love and heartbreak themes of the rest of her discography. However, her performance uses darker pink-and-purple lights to mirror the darker elements of the song. She also changed from her pink dress into an edgier yellow plaid outfit.
Additionally, she posted a photo with a bouquet of pink flowers after the show. “SNL was fucking insane!!! def one of the coolest experiences of my life. huge thanks to all the ppl at the show for being so wonderful and welcoming,” her caption reads. She also gave a shoutout to Key, calling him an “absolute genius.”
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Joining “drivers license” and “good 4 u” in Rodrigo’s musical resume is “deja vu.” Like her other songs, it also went viral on social media, prompting various trends that even Rodrigo joined. It’s accompanied by a moody and nostalgic visual that depicts the very meaning of déjà vu.
All three songs will appear on Rodrigo’s upcoming debut album, Sour, which is set for release May 21 via Geffen Records.
“I’m a songwriter who writes from a place of authenticity and truth,” she told Billboard about the album. “And truthfully, love and happiness and everything weren’t feelings that I was feeling at the time. And what’s the point of putting out a record if it isn’t something that you feel is important to say to people?”
Rodrigo stars in the Disney+ original series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series as Nini. The second season just began, and fans can catch new episodes airing every Friday. It picks up where the first season left off, with the East High students getting ready to tackle a new play for the spring musical. You can watch the show here now.
“She’s a young adult now, but I remember being struck and moved by how ordinary the conversations were [between her and her castmates] in between takes,” HSMTMTS creator and showrunner Tim Federle told Billboard. “All the insecurities and all of the self-doubts and all of the dreams that every kid out there has, Olivia has and had them too. And she happened to strike gold where her dreams met a perfect intersection of her abilities.”
After realizing he needed to add a mid-season original song for Nini, Federle called on Rodrigo to write a song for her character.
“I sent Olivia this email, being like, ‘I think Nini needs a song, and I think you should be the person who tries to write it,’” Federle says. “And I remember three days later, Olivia was sort of sheepishly like, ‘I’ve got a little something. Do you mind if I show you?’”
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