Fans of Disney channel and pop music are in shambles this January, as the newest child star love triangle forms itself in the likes of Nick, Miley, and Selena. Stars of the hit Disney+ original, High School Musical the Musical the Series, Joshua Bassett and Olivia Rodrigo were the talk of Gen Z social media at the turn of the year when Rodrigo, 17, released her debut single “Driver’s License”, an obvious commentary on her relationship with Bassett, shooting to the number one spot on any and all music charts. “Driver’s License” is a heartbreaking pop ballad about a girl who recently obtained her driver’s license, but couldn’t help but feel upset because she no longer could share this milestone with the boy she always spoke about it with.
Fans were quick to cite early 2020 interviews, where Rodrigo told a story about Bassett essentially being the one who taught her to drive, letting her drive his car around parking lots before she had even her learner’s permit. The innocent co-star romance never fully bloomed however, Rodrigo being 16 and Bassett, 18 at the start of their friendship. Some speculate that the two had agreed to wait for each other to be of respectable dating age, writing and singing subliminal messages to one another via songs on their respective Instagram accounts. In November of 2019, months after the beginning of HSMTMTS filming, Bassett sings “I know it’s not, not right now, but I will find a way for us to be somehow. And though it won’t be soon, you can bet your a**, I’m coming back for you.”
Unfortunately, he did not wait for her – as it was implied – because in June of 2020, Bassett began being spotted with former Disney star, current Netflix actress and singer-songwriter, Sabrina Carpenter, 21. From the months of June to November the two were steadily seen hanging out, holding hands and kissing, even posing in couples costumes as “Sharkboy and Lavagirl” on Halloween. The time to comment on these events seemed to have passed, but when HSMTMTS released a holiday special, Rodrigo and Bassett were suddenly seen (virtually) together doing promotions on every major media site. The two singer-songwriters rode the wave of this media coverage by announcing their respective singles “Driver’s License” and “Lie Lie Lie”.
Rodrigo sings, “You’re probably with that blonde girl, who always made me doubt, she’s so much older than me, she’s everything I’m insecure about,” referring to Carpenter’s signature long blonde hair and the 4 year age gap between the two actresses, sending social media into a frenzy. Many teens saw themselves in Rodrigo’s words, relating to the idea of being heartbroken by a boy who didn’t care for them as much as he said he did. Bassett and Carpenter fielded hate as the masses took to supporting and protecting Rodrigo, the youngest of the three. “I feel like this is all Joshua’s fault”, Maiya Austen ‘21 writes, referring to the media’s obsession with pitting young talented women against each other and neglecting to recognize the common denominator, teenage boys.
Two weeks later, Sabrina Carpenter attempted to steal the spotlight, however, dropping a new single “Skin”’ in which she “claps back” at Rodrigo for referencing her in “Driver’s License”. “Sabrina woke up and chose violence” Ryan Southworth ’23, reacts to the opening lines “maybe you didn’t mean it, maybe blonde was the only rhyme” before going on to sing about not letting people get under her skin. The shockingly direct lyrics seem to be a harsh overreaction to an honest and flattering mention in Rodrigo’s song, and people are taking notice. While Carpenter made an Instagram post denying the song being about Rodrigo, minds seem to be made up. Leah Ollie ’21 feels that “it didn’t really change anything… people’s attitudes seem pretty fixed.”
Bassett has not commented on the situation, posting brief Instagram stories congratulating both girls on their releases, and focusing his energy on his recently released single “Lie Lie Lie” which seems to not be related to the situation. As of now, Rodrigo seems to be the only one involved to come out unscathed, entering her second week at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and basking in the glory of a successful and well-deserved hit debut.