Olivia Rodrigo wasn’t supposed to release an album this year.
The 18-year-old singer, songwriter and actress had planned to start her recording career with an extended-play release, a short selection of songs that would sample her talents. It’s a tried-and-true strategy for young musicians, who often don’t have a full album of material ready to go.
Then she released her first single. “Driver’s License,” a bildungsroman of heartbreak and teen angst, set a one-day record on Spotify with more than 15 million streams on Jan. 11. It reached 17 million the next day and became the fastest song to surpass 100 million streams.
On the next call with her manager and record label, Rodrigo said she wanted to record a full album, following in the footsteps of idols such as Taylor Swift. Rodrigo would have to record seven more songs in just a couple months, all while shooting a TV show in Salt Lake City and finishing her senior year of high school. She was undeterred.
“Sour” scored the biggest debut of any album this year, and Rodrigo is now the biggest musician in the world, according to Bloomberg’s Pop Star Power Rankings. She was the top act on Spotify last month, as well as one of the 20 most-popular acts on both Instagram and YouTube.
“It’s one of the biggest records out of the gate ever,” said John Janick, the head of her label, Universal Music Group’s Interscope Geffen A&M Records. “Sometimes you sign artists and you think they are great, but it takes time. There is every so often someone who comes and sits, and you know this person is special.”