“Deja vu”: the Biting Sequel to “driver’s license”


Photo courtesy of YouTube/Olivia Rodrigo

After Olivia Rodrigo achieved astronomical success with her hit “driver’s license,” it seemed almost unlikely that the rising singer would create something that measured up to such a song. However, she is at the top of her game with  “deja vu,” a track that is all together nostalgic, bittersweet, and catchy.

Once upon a time, “driver’s license” told the painful story of a love triangle, presumably involving Rodrigo, her ex-boyfriend, and his new girlfriend. “deja vu,” written by Rodrigo and Dan Nigro, continues the love triangle saga where “driver’s license” left off. There is something undeniably poetic about being the odd one out in a love triangle, and this is undoubtedly one of the many things that makes people drawn to her music. While Rodrigo showed feelings of vulnerability and helplessness on “driver’s license,” she takes control of the narrative on “deja vu,” unleashing her frustration on the boy and speaking of the girl with a kind of cold pity. She reminisces on her past relationship and condemns her ex for using all the same old romantic gestures to woo his new love. “When you gonna tell her that we did that, too? She thinks it’s special, but it’s all reused” she croons, poking fun at his lack of originality. 

Rodrigo plays with our memories as she describes experiences that many of us can relate to, even if we cannot connect them to a specific instance in our lives. Vivid yet vague memories like the taste of strawberry ice cream, the feeling of sitting in a car as the world passes by, and the sound of Billy Joel invoke our own sense of déjà vu.

The song itself is catchy without being irritating, and has a simple but satisfying melody. Rodrigo’s vocals are strong and almost overflowing with emotion. “Deja vu” is also full of lyrical meta moments and easter eggs, making it especially pleasing to the ear. She utters a few languid “ha-ha-ha”s in the backing vocals as she remembers the hilarity of her past relationship, which adds a sense of irony and jaded disillusionment. She sings in harmony with herself on the exact words “singing in harmony.” Just after speculating that her ex tells his new girlfriend he loves her “in between the chorus and the verse” of “Uptown Girl,” she whispers a barely audible “I love you” in between the verse and the upcoming chorus.

Rodrigo has credited pop star Taylor Swift with being her “biggest idol and inspiration.”  Listeners can hear Swift’s influence on “deja vu,” particularly on the bridge, which is structurally and melodically similar to the bridge of Swift’s own “Cruel Summer.” This is most evident on the line “I know you get deja vu,” which is sung with a rhythm, tone, and melody very like Swift’s lyric “I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you.”

Overall, “deja vu” is compelling, emotional, with a generous pinch of  irresistible pettiness. “Driver’s license” skyrocketed her success, but “deja vu” has further cemented her place in the music industry. And with her debut album Sour soon on the way, she can only get bigger from here.