Switched on Pop
Switched on Pop
Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” is a full throttle power ballad
40 minutes Posted Jan 19, 2021 at 2:00 am.
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Show notes

Power ballads used to top the charts regularly, from 80s rock to 90s R&B. But then in the 2000s, the formula of constant escalation gradually fell off the Billboard. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, Olivia Rodrigo’s single “Drivers License” is breaking streaming records as listeners yearn for the emotional catharsis from this contemporary power ballad. With the help of David Metzer, professor of music history at the University of British Columbia, we break down how “Drivers License” sticks to an age-old formula, and how it deviates from a well worn musical path.  


  • Olivia Rodrigo - Drivers License
  • Barry Manilow - Mandy
  • Roy Orbison - It’s Over
  • Clyde McPhatter - Without Love There Is Nothing 
  • Etta James - I’d Rather Go Blind 
  • Journey - Open Arms 
  • Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men - One Sweet Day 
  • Seal - Kiss From A Rose
  • Hootie & The Blowfish - Only Wanna Be with You 
  • Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven 


Professor David Metzer’s The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé

Aiyana Ishmael for Teen Vogue “Olivia Rodrigo Song "Drivers License" Sparks Fan-Made TikTok POV Covers

Olivia Rodrigo’s Instagram demo

Richard S. He Twitter thread 

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