Track Review: Olivia Rodrigo Maintains Her Momentum With “Deja Vu”

With the release of her second single, “deja vu,” Olivia Rodrigo is in an entirely different space than the one she was in when “drivers license” made its debut a few months ago. Pre-“drivers license,” Olivia was largely unknown to the general public. After that song’s historic success, Olivia now finds herself as one of the leaders of pop music’s new generation with just two songs under her belt. “Deja Vu,” the new single from Olivia’s upcoming debut album *O*R, is a smart change of pace from “drivers license” that simultaneously showcases her versatility as well as her ability to maintain thematic consistency.

For the first half of “deja vu,” the song picks up where the balladry of “drivers license” left off. Like Taylor Swift and Lorde, Olivia has a natural knack for building intricate worlds that are drenched in the heightened emotion of suburban adolescence. Olivia sings of “strawberry ice cream, one spoon for two” and “watching reruns of Glee” to build the foundation for the world and subjects of “deja vu.” If “drivers license” was Olivia’s way of coping with the initial aftermath of a breakup, “deja vu” is a musical manifestation of the first steps of moving on. There are glimmers of Olivia questioning the authenticity of the feelings behind both the old and current relationships (“Do you call her, almost say my name?/’Cause let’s be honest, we kinda do sound the same”), but Olivia delivers those lines with a hint of apathy to mask the hurt she’s feeling. Those notes of apathy morph into an ever-increasing franticness that ground the latter half of the song and provides Olivia an opportunity to show off what she can do with a more left-field instrumental. The first chorus of the song relies on her forlorn falsetto, but by the time Olivia reaches the next chorus, she’s belting it out over a robust set of drums. Between the drums, smartly placed background vocals, and distorted production effects, “deja vu” wears it’s indie pop and psychedelic rock influences on its sleeve. There’s as much Tame Impala in here as there is Taylor Swift. From the introduction of those drums to the smirks and snickers sprinkled throughout the song, Olivia brings the characters in her songwriting to life by expressing them through every facet of the song. The production doesn’t simply sit as a backdrop for her lyricism. Instead, the production, along with her vocal performance, work together to elevate the lyrics and convey the story in additional ways.

“Deja Vu” leans more pop-rock than “drivers license” and it’s a bit heavy for a radio single as we move into the summer. Nevertheless, with her momentum from “drivers license” and the quality of “deja vu,” she should be just fine.

Score: 70

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