Rodrigo bares heart and soul in driving home 2 u


Ashley Qian

Singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo released driving home 2 u (a SOUR film) on March 25 on Disney+. The film encapsulates the creation process behind Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR, which was released last year.

Trisha Atluri, Executive Entertainment Editor

Catapulted into fame after her hit single “drivers license,” singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo went from being the intimately recognizable star of Nickelodeon’s Bizaardvark to an international pop sensation selling out tours within hours.

Turning heartbreak into an unfathomably successful music career isn’t unheard of, but it’s one Rodrigo tells authentically in her debut album SOUR and supplements with narration in her film driving home 2 u.

The film seamlessly integrates Rodrigo’s recount of the process and ideation behind each track into live performances. Her story is rightfully freeing, crafted around themes of heartbreak and recovery, anxiety and abandon, and anger and acceptance. 

Throughout the road trip, three tangible motifs follow the viewer: the color purple, butterflies and driving. 

Appearing overwhelmingly in the SOUR album cover and promotional art, purple returns subtly in driving home 2 u through filters and fonts. In color theory, light purple represents imagination and introspection, which is fitting in the context of this film. Meanwhile, butterflies symbolize metamorphosis and perfectly illustrate the growth Rodrigo has experienced since the album’s release one year ago. The butterfly’s flight represents freedom, beauty and vulnerability, as the wings are fragile yet powerful, with the power to carry tiny insects across thousands of miles.

As Rodrigo travels from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, the act of driving transforms from one of painful reflection and a symbol of missed opportunities to a liberating experience highlighting her growth since the release of “drivers license.” For “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” Rodrigo sings in the car, mirroring her creation of the song when it was written the day before her breakup on a drive to Salt Lake City. Her performance reflects the authenticity of the film; it feels like she is taking our hands and diving back into her memories to show us how the album was created.

“You can never lie to yourself when writing a song,” Rodrigo said in the film. “At least it is hard for me.”

Highlighting a shift in maturity, she opens up about a medley of relatable anxieties, from relationship struggles to career concerns. After releasing “drivers license,” Rodrigo was worried about coming out with new music in case it wouldn’t be received similarly. She discusses the perceived but untrue love triangle drama that was amplified through fan theories and how she was nervous about releasing music after that in case her audience misconstrued it as her playing into or approving it.

While Rodrigo takes liberties in the live version of each song, by far the most jarring difference is seen in “good 4 u,” which she sings accompanied by a full orchestra in Red Rock Canyon State Park in California. The difference in production, from the sound of teenage rebellion to that of young adulthood and acceptance, highlights Rodrigo’s growth since the moment she recorded her music video. This version feels more sophisticated and mature, taking the viewer through a gentle transition from her teen drama queen era to her future projects.

Another highlight is “brutal,” which Rodrigo wrote five days before the tracklist was posted. The energy behind its spontaneous creation and her “I want it to be like, messy,” dialogue at the beginning of the track are intensely magnified in an exhilarating rush as Rodrigo yells the lyrics with abandon in a shack with artists Blu DeTiger and Towa Bird. After a hyper couple minutes of jumping and hair-flipping, the song concludes with the artists passionately shredding on their instruments.

Rodrigo performs “happier,” “enough for you” and “traitor” in one take. As the camera swoops around her as she sings in a bedroom, while playing a glittery piano in the woods and at a California gas station respectively, her music is reimagined in a new setting. In both her candidness and her performances, Rodrigo brings her most intimate thoughts and feelings to the light.

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