You are cordially invited to the first High Tea brew of the year, your dispatch of 🔥 internet culture served piping hot. This week: we announce our newest addition to the High Tea family, Bucks Fizz 🎵 (juicy details below), and dive into 2021’s first viral moment with Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license”.
Drink up 🐸☕️
what we’ve been sipping on:
We were ready to put uNpReCeDeNtEd TiMeS well and truly behind us in 2020, but 17-year-old Olivia Rodrigo had other plans. Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” (no, that’s not a typo), released on January 8, became the fastest song to surpass 100 million streams in Spotify history. It took her 8 days. To say we’ve never seen anything like this before would be an understatement. So, how did we get here? It’s a tale of TikTok’s unrivalled distribution and discoverability formula, piping hot tea, the Gen Z detectives responsible for spilling it and the snowball effect of community collaboration. Let’s dive in.
📈January 8: 2.02 million Spotify streams
📈January 9: 6.27 million Spotify streams
📈January 10: 10.06 million Spotify streams
📈January 11: 15.17 million global streams (Spotify record for most streams in a day for a non-holiday song)
📈January 12: 17.01 million streams (breaking her own record)
📈January 13: “drivers license” charts at #1 in 45 countries on Apple Music
📈January 14: most requested song ever in one day on Alexa globally
📈January 15: biggest weekly streaming debut for any song in US Spotify chart history (30.433 million)
I live for you, I long for you, Olivia
Despite Olivia Rodrigo showing up late to the TikTok party, joining the platform last August, she ain’t a stranger to the fame game having played Nina Salazar-Roberts in the hit HSM Disney+ remake: High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Make no mistake pals, we aren’t documenting a rags to riches story, but rather a Z whose pivot from Disney actor to fully-fledged artist in her own right, garnered what felt like the support and creativity of an entire TikTok ecosystem to help propel Olivia’s story to beyond the suburbs and into our heads, rent free.
Remember TikTok’s Ratatouille The Musical? Take Remy, and add a little bit of...spice. Olivia is ✨main character✨ energy and the lyricism of drivers license proves just that. The ballad itself describes her pain after a breakup (we’ve all been there), while touching on topics of infidelity (just *who* is that blonde girl!) and the confusion of how the other could move on so fast:
“And I just can't imagine how you could be so okay now that I'm gone /
Guess you didn't mean what you wrote in that song about me”
But ofc, the tea did not stop there. Once TikTok detectives caught wind of just who the song could be about, tongues were wagging. Rumours are circling that it relates to her relationship with on-screen High School Musical love interest Joshua Bassett, who supposedly broke her heart IRL. While we don’t normally like to buy into mischievous gossip (we brew the stronger stuff at 🐸☕️ as you know), we will acknowledge the bookiness of the fact Bassett does drive a white vehicle and his closeness with the 21-year-old, blonde-haired Sabrina Carpenter as... *TikTok voice* that’s suspicious, that’s weird. Not to mention the timing of his latest release “lie lie lie”, just this week. But no further comment, your honor.
Google searches for Olivia Rodrigo (blue), Sabrina Carpenter (red) and Joshua Bassett (yellow) over the past 30 days in the US
the fyp: an artist’s bff
TikTok, of course, had its part to play in skyrocketing the promotion and popularity of “drivers license”, with 1.5B views for #driverslicense and more than 550K videos using the audio on the platform, without a marketing dollar in sight (now that’s what we call $free.99). This was no ill-fated Yummy marketing campaign from Bieber back in January 2020, destined to flop because he used TikTok “as a promotional tool rather than engaging with the app’s culture of weird and engaging videos”. Rather, Olivia’s regard for the culture and community was apparent in her announcement post on TikTok, introducing the storytelling behind the songwriting (“about 6 months ago i got my drivers license...i was super excited to drive alone thru the suburbs crying lol”) and a behind-the-scenes peep into production of it (“we even put sounds from my moms car in the track lol”).
chart data @chartdata.@Olivia_Rodrigo's "drivers license" becomes the fastest song to surpass 100 million streams in Spotify history (~8 days).
Olivia’s self promo is vulnerable and delightfully charming in equal parts, “i can’t believe this is real life” is the caption as she celebrates “drivers license” reaching number 4 on iTunes (oh girl, if only you’d known). One tweet reads “i cannot comprehend this”, another states “can’t wait to tell my therapist that ppl like the song”. As the viewer this past week, we’ve been cheering her on from the sidelines as streams continue to soar, playing a passive, vicarious part in her success – in which old and new fans have joined forces. Olivia’s reaction to her explosive success, live tweeted and storied on Instagram, follows a path of utter disbelief, somewhat reminiscent of Billie Eilish’s “please don’t be me” moment, before winning her fifth Grammy for Album Of The Year last year, at 18.
While the rest of us were busy getting lost down the “drivers license” rabbit hole, the track was buoyed with a little help from friends in high places: Charli D’Amelio and Taylor Swift. The former (and our fave TikTok matriarch, ofc) released a piece of choreography the day after the song’s release, which has since acquired more than 27M views, giving the audio an early boost on all of our for you pages (106 million followers don’t lie 🚫 🧢). On the same day, Olivia posted a screenshot of her iTunes chart position captioned “i’m in a puddle of tears”, showing “drivers license” sitting in third place behind two of Taylor’s “evermore” tracks. Taylor’s reply of “I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud” gave the song an undeniable co-sign, cementing its position in the zeitgeist. Mark our words, Taylor will bring Olivia out for a guest appearance when stadium tours return (don’t hold your breath tho, ms. rona).
2 birds 1 stone: the TikTok duet
We cannot go any further without tipping our bonnets to TikTok’s unrivalled, collaborative functionality which directly contributed to the song’s success. High Tea fans will know we’ve been banging on about TikTok duets since the dawn of (tea) time, but we’re witnessing the seismic impact of this feature not only being the tool to enable new methods of interactive and collaborative storytelling, but also the platform to distribute these joint performances to audiences far beyond the reach of the original piece of content. On that note, here’s a duet from the day Olivia Rodrigo joined TikTok back in August 2020, where we *checks notes* talk about the power of this format for its ability to promote and distribute “the next big thing”. We don’t wanna say we told you so, but...we told you so.
But there’s something even bigger here at play with “drivers license” that transcends the humble duet. Olivia sparked a new form of immersive storytelling on TikTok that has unmistakable hints of Lil Nas X in his Roblox takeover – except Olivia didn’t spend hours working with developers to create her own virtual space on the internet. It wasn’t even a white-label experience. Olivia managed to own the TikTok FYP and create a collaborative arena for everyone to hop into and add to, without spending a dime. If you were looking for evidence of the power of memes: this is it. Enter: POVs.
With TikTok duets, the content gets a new lease of life with every collaborative contribution to the cause. With #povs (aka “point of views”), the content grows a life of its own. This week bore witness to “drivers license” POVs, with Gen Z offering up the imagined perspectives from Sabrina Carpenter (“that blonde girl”), ‘the guy’, and comedic offerings from the license itself (we love you @who_is_jackie), the car’s perspective, and the DMV worker’s perspective. The POV, one step removed from the humble duet (which favors the participation of musicians alone), has a much lower barrier to entry and as such, encourages a shift from passive consumer of culture to active participant in it.
“Yeah I’m with that blonde girl, but lately I’ve been having doubts, she’s never done me wrong, but nothing compares to your mind and your smile” –– @slayesha playing the role of ‘Love Interest’
“I turned out to be that blonde girl, the one you worried about, but what if I told you something, you’re everything I’m insecure about” –– @andimitchellll as ‘The Blonde Girl’
And it doesn’t stop there. Spilling over from TikTok duets to standalone POVs, “drivers license” has continued to bleed out into other corners of the internet in just 8 short days. A 10 hour loop of the song, uploaded January 9th, has amassed more than 2 million views, with a comment from MTV that reads “I appreciate this so much”. One fan account, @ChartsRodrigo, is dedicated to churning out chart updates at record pace (pls, allow us our dad jokes) for the bop. Jimmy Fallon and The Roots have covered “drivers license” in the style of a sea shanty which feels very...meta, albeit a little cringey.
Most remarkably, perhaps, is the length of the song itself, standing at 4:02, which feels like a marathon in an era where the constraints of TikTok and short form content encourage minimalism and snappiness when it comes to producing a certified banger. Think: Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage”, “Best Friend” by Saweetie ft. Doja Cat and UPSAHL’s “Drugs”, which are all 2:36 in length. The devil is in the details, after all.
Okay you made it. Now for the *big news*:
Today we are announcing the launch of our latest breakfast addition: “Buck Fizz”, a weekly dispatch covering all elements of music and artistry on TikTok. We’ve loved being your one-stop-sip for all things internet culture and Gen Z since starting High Tea in September 2019. A year and some change later, we’re offering our first paid subscription for everyone as fascinated by TikTok as *the* destination for music discovery and distribution in 2021, as we are.
You can expect deep dives into unsigned artists, insights into trends as they emerge and our artist predictions for the next big tings. If you read our Class of 2020, you know these phrogs know a thing or two about the future movers and shakers on TikTok. Bucks Fizz is the natural extension of our beloved Sunday dispatch (which will always be free, for the record). We’ll be ceremoniously dropping into your inboxes every (thirsty) Thursday for that necessary Dutch courage. See you there.