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Breaking down (to) Olivia Rodrigo's “deja vu”

Updated: May 27, 2021

A different song now, but there’s nothing new because we still want to tell Olivia we love her in between the chorus and the verse.

Rodrigo’s debut single, Driver’s License was an internet sensation, breaking Spotify’s record for the most song streams in a week. It was so celebrated, it got its own skit on SNL. After such success, it begs the question- is she destined to be a one-hit-wonder or a music mogul? Her newest single, Deja Vu, seems to emulate the latter.

Let’s be real, this isn’t the first song we’ve heard called Deja Vu, we get deja vu just hearing the title. With chart-topping singers like Shakira, Eminem and Katy Perry having songs sharing the name, you begin to wonder, what puts this 17-year old Filipino-American girl’s song besides, and dare I say, above, the rest of these chart-topping hits?

Was it the dreamy vocals, the fantastic wardrobe from the music video or the fan-frenzied drama and steamy love triangle that tagged along with Driver’s License?

The wardrobe from the music video, which can be best described as delightfully retro, was immaculate! With ensembles that were sustainable, affordable, timeless, and easy to imitate, it gave us several new outfits to recreate this summer. It was a brilliant mirror of the meaning of the song and Rodrigo’s personal style and branding, letting listeners and viewers get further into her head and deeper into the song.

The fragmented style of storytelling allows for a wide variety of outfits to be used, while still seeming purposeful. The opening scene seems to make full use of the trending TikTok hair-scarf videos, where users drive with windows down with a bandana on their head. The chunky sunglasses paired with the headscarf, black converse, layered necklaces, and the casual, yet classic pairing of white and denim create a timeless, easy look. The next ensemble is the antithesis of the previous outfit. A gorgeous, green maxi dress adorned with ruffles at the end screams elegance and maturity at you across the screen. The dress is a custom green version of the Angie dress by Molly Goddard. The next scene features her on the beach in a vintage white vest and skirt set, completed with delicate feathers and striking pearl buttons. We next jump up into the clouds, and in the sky-blue set, where she wears a pink, cropped Chanel cardigan adorned with chunky black lining. Her look is modernised with drop-crotch jeans.

If you want to find similar looks, check out this thread on our makeover section on Hi Society.

Click Here.

As for the lyrics and song itself, Rodrigo has artistically left nothing and everything to the imagination. If “Driver’s License” gave off Taylor Swift vibes, “deja vu” is definitely serving us, Lorde, with a hint of Cher Lloyd. However, Rodrigo still pays tribute to her ‘mom’ and idol with a reference to the production of Swift’s Cruel Summer during the bridge.

The lyrics seem to continue the storyline from her previous single, using powerful imagery to capture memories. Dishing out lines like “Strawberry ice cream in Malibu/ Don’t act like we didn’t do that shit too” and “I hate to think that I was just your type”, it’s almost impossible to remain impassive listening to this song. Two singles into her career Rodrigo is already demonstrating her ability to take honest (and relatable to those of us who don’t text Niall Horan,) teenage emotions and turn them into chart-toppers. Rodrigo’s raw emotion and effective storytelling have made us all indignant towards the ex who’s retelling her jokes!

The ‘shimmery’ intro music lures us into a sense of false security, believing that this song might not take the emotional toll that Drivers License did. After the first verse, you hear a soft, harmonised laughter, added almost sarcastically, and that’s when we start to realise, hey, maybe this isn’t about her experiences with her ex-flame. This is confirmed in the final line of the next verse, where she mentions another “she” for the first time. Then the beat drops, and we become painfully aware that this song will too, fuel us with vengeance towards the lovers in question.

As the song approaches the chorus, the emotions seem to heighten, with more frustration and anger entering her voice, giving an unexpected edge to her voice. ‘Deja Vu’ is thrown as an accusation, and as the melody continues, it seems to get stronger, with the addition of more instruments, strategically placed vocals, and her voice adopting a more cautionary yet accepting attitude.

The second chorus is a direct opposition to the first, almost like a beefed up version, creating the feeling that she’s appointing blame in a very clear way. Her vocals are reinforced with an energy we hadn’t seen in the song yet. After she sings “in between the chorus and the verse”, there is a very soft, almost unintelligible “i love you”. It sounds so raw, as if she is reminiscing the first time she ever said “i love you” to her ex-lover. The positioning of the line shows that it’s a moment of vulnerability- after all, she’s putting out something into the world so that’s painful to her, something she still holds onto dearly. It's so soft that barely anyone can hear it, and they have to listen very carefully to understand what she is saying. It adds another layer and perspective, and leans into the possibility that she is not just frustrated about her tender moments being washed and reused by her ex, but about how her memories and experiences are being erased altogether.

The final leg of the song is my personal favourite. It’s a fortified version of the first verse, the first part of the song on steroids. It keeps the idea and storyline fresh, and is empowering, suggesting that she is reclaiming her experiences and rewriting the evidence from her perspective. For me, it's a perfect ending to the story, she’s shed her baggage. It makes me believe that she has new ground to stand on, and a new journey that goes on and upwards from now.

Rodrigo's avidly anticipated debut album - sour - dropped at midnight EST on the 21st of May and I'm certain I'm not the only one who has had it on loop. I look forward to releasing the review, next week, but fair warning it's basically a love letter to the album that surpassed my wildest dreams.

Check out the music video for “Deja Vu” at the link below.

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