Actress and singer Olivia Rodrigo is known for turning breakups into great songs. But like many female artists before her, she’s experienced sexist criticism for penning hits about heartbreak. In a recent interview with The Guardian, the “drivers license” artist revealed that she’s noticed a lot of songwriters like herself – young women – being told that they “only write songs about boys.”
Rodrigo is no stranger to such criticism, as she witnessed Taylor Swift, her favourite songwriter, go through the same thing throughout her career. “I’m a teenage girl, I write about stuff that I feel really intensely – and I feel heartbreak and longing really intensely – and I think that’s authentic and natural,” Rodrigo, 18, said in the interview. “I don’t really understand what people want me to write about; do you want me to write a song about income taxes? How am I going to write an emotional song about that?”
Related: 10 signs you’re falling out of love.
She has a point. Pretty much every single musician draws inspiration what they’ve gone through. Critics dragging her for writing what she knows is an upsetting double standard that has long plagued women in the music industry. Few critics have scoffed at men for singing about finding (or losing) a lover, yet when women do it they’re often reduced to their love lives in the press, with the actual music taking a back seat.
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Swift, Rodrigo’s idol, is a prime example. The star’s love life has long been the butt of many jokes, despite her being one of the most successful songwriters on the planet. Most recently, the number of men she’s dated was hurled as an insult on the Netflix series Ginny & Georgia when Ginny says to her mother: “You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.”
When Rodrigo released her pop ballad “drivers license” in January it exploded on the charts to become biggest first-week for a song on Spotify and Amazon Music. It also shattered records by topping the Billboard Hot 100, making Rodrigo the youngest artist ever to debut at number one.
Despite the song’s success, the media quickly began analyzing the subject of the song, her ex-boyfriend and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series costar Joshua Basset. The ballad’s theme of healing after heartbreak was quickly overshadowed by a messy love triangle between Rodrigo, Basset and another Disney star, Sabrina Carpenter.
Since then, Rodrigo has not let the drama define her. She released her second single “deja vu” last month and is gearing up for the release of her debut album Sour, which drops next week. She also reminds herself that when any criticism feels overwhelming, she can brush it off with her mom’s words: “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”