Drivers License by Olivia Rodrigo (analysis)

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superblonde
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Drivers License by Olivia Rodrigo (analysis)

Post by superblonde » Fri Apr 09, 2021 11:43 pm

Olivia Rodrigo's "drivers license" has been mentioned in the Taxi youtube channel in multiple contexts (guest interviews and song reviews) and the song is listed as a Reference Track on multiple song requests ( = $$$).

Also, Robin Frederick recently sent out a newsletter about Rodrigo's song.

Is Frederick on this forum? I believe the song does not match Frederick's summary (or similar summaries posted on other songwriter blogs).

First it must be mentioned that Rodrigo has significant industry backing (both Hollywood acting career & Disney Corp) which propelled this song in composition, production, on the charts, and in viral social media. This song is not a case of, "young teen writes a simple piano song which becomes a surprise pop hit." It was co-written, songwriters: Daniel Nigro, Olivia Rodrigo. There are compositional aspects deep in this song which are much more complex than the typical teen pop song. The song is closer to one of Disney's very finely crafted hits than a typical Swiftie-fan's song.

Second I believe the superficial aspects of this song ("Oh wow, a teen girl with breathy, fragile-sounding voice is singing authentically about a broken relationship to other teen girls, with the piano texture so stripped-down and bare") are not the significant drivers of this song's success.

Frederick's summary is below :
Here's the song structure:

VERSE/VERSE/CHORUS
VERSE/CHORUS
BRIDGE
CHORUS

However the song does not match her suggested song format, for just a few reasons like this:


1. V1/V2/V3 use a strongly-emphasized refrain, which is modified across verses. It is not a typical 'verse' form.

2. C1/C2 are the same, but C3 is varied. These sections are still held back compared to a typical chorus texture. It is not a typical 'chorus' form.

3. There are no transition measures between V2-C1 and V3-C2. Normal V-C-V form has transitional material. This is not a typical V-C-V form.

4. The Bridge is the audience sing-along aspect of the song, not a typical Bridge departure, has a much thicker texture and multi-tracked vocals. All of the viral tiktok's for example, use this section as sing-along. This is not a typical C-B-C form.


I'm not ready to call out a new form for this song until my transcription is complete. The above indicates that this song does not qualify as V-V-C-B in specific ways. Maybe other song writers would like to comment with their interpretation of this song. One thing is clear from my listening: this is not a simple pop song in form or melody or rhythm.

An advanced detail of this song which may only make sense to transcribers is the use of 16th note motive create syncopation in the vocal line and it is symmetric across the start and end of phrases. This is important because Frederick's recommendation, "try writing a song section with the similar melodic shape" will not be enough to create listener interest when compared to Rodrigo's song.

An important tip for songwriters is that Rodrigo posted a playthrough of the early song draft online (about 6 mos before the song was finished & recorded & officially released). It can be found by searching for Drivers License Original version where it has been re-uploaded by her fans. What can be heard is an important change in lyric and phrasing compared the final version which sounds much better melodically and lyrically, and a very different piano voicing.

superblonde
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Re: Drivers License by Olivia Rodrigo (analysis)

Post by superblonde » Tue May 04, 2021 1:19 am

Rodrigo specifically references Gracie Abrams as one of the main stylistic inspirations of Drivers License.


Gracie Abrams - I miss you, I’m sorry
- April 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nijx6Np0o40


Gracie Abrams is probably a better reference track than Rodrigo's Drivers License because the Abrams style uses more instrumentation, more varied harmonic progression, and thicker texture. It would seem easier to stylistically derive a new track from this when compared to the bare piano and pedal point of Rodrigo's track. Not every song can have a pedal point as a motif or songs would sound like carbon copies.

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