Pop Into Hollywood-Emerson College Los Angeles

Poppin' Reviews

Olivia Rodrigo Explores Playful Frustration In “deja vu”

Olivia Rodrigo takes her driving skills to the beach in her psychedelic and energetic new song, “deja vu.” This fresh new track comes after the wide-ranged success of the 18-year-old artist’s breakthrough single, “Driver’s License.” Like “Driver’s License,” Rodrigo’s recent single will be added to the list of songs to scream out the car window while driving down the highway. 

“deja vu” is no slow, heartbreaking ballad like “Driver’s License,” though. While the lyrics point to a past relationship similar to her last single, there’s a light euphoric sense to it that “Driver’s License” doesn’t have. The track begins with the steadiness of a keyboard synthesizer that sounds like tiny bells ringing along. Rodrigo’s vocals start with soft, delicate tones with her own angelic harmonized background vocals as she reminisces about a former relationship. Rodrigo demonstrates her talent in effortlessly jumping back and forth between her lower and breathy high register, telling her tale with the repeated synthesized keyboard in the background. The song hits a fluctuating momentum as a distorted electric guitar, almost having similarities to Mazzy Star’s ‘90s dream-pop single “Fade into You,” fills the space along with a steady drumbeat. 

Rodrigo has a knack for painting a clear picture with the words she sings, taking storytelling inspiration from artists like Taylor Swift and Lorde. In cheeky verbiage, when singing to an unnamed former lover, she imagines her ex is doing the same things with a new partner as they did together. She’s comically sympathetic in a way towards her ex’s new lover’s delusion with the words, “I bet she’s bragging to all her friends saying you’re so unique.” With references to Billy Joel and the hit TV show Glee, Rodrigo is taking a page out of her diary, allowing her vulnerability to come through. In a rhetorically framed question, like she already knows the answer, she asks her ex, “Do you get déjà vu when she’s with you?” 

Once she hits the bridge, all of Rodrigo’s vocals build up to her apex of frustration. Her voice becomes fuller and tenser as she belts out that her ex is repeating their special moments with another lover with things like “strawberry ice cream in Malibu”  and “tradin’ jackets like we used to do.” She explodes as the instrumentals get louder, and she yells a couple of lines in rhythm. She captures herself ruminating in this feeling of heartbreak, agitation, grief, and a little bit of inner rage. 

With its experimental sound of warped guitars and drums, the vocals and instruments can put one into a hallucinatory trance of wonderment, only to snap back to Rodrigo’s pain. This song is an earworm for sure. It seems that she thrives when transforming heartache into art. She allows for a cathartic release from her own experiences while allowing others to relate.

The sadness of “Drivers License” may have catapulted her career, but her ability to make a song as audacious as “deja vu” shows her longevity. Olivia Rodrigo is here to stay, strawberry ice cream and all. 



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