At the time of writing, Olivia Rodrigo has 4 tracks in the top 10 Billboard Top 100. 10 tracks if you’re looking at the Top 20.
The 18-year-old singer released her debut album, SOUR last month, which immediately became the biggest album of the year. Her single ‘good 4 u’ became her second #1 hit of 2021 after her January’s ‘drivers license’. ‘Good 4 u’ also broke the record for the most plays in a single week on Spotify – a record she originally held herself.
Even though it would be nice to talk in-depth about the icon Rodrigo has become (and perhaps more fittingly for Pride Month, the LGBTQIA+ community she’s stood with), this piece isn’t about Rodrigo but more about the change in culture being driven by her generation.
Reflection and the next generation
Listening to her music and lyrics made me reflect on the influence of social media and how media and entertainment should evolve in response to Gen Z’s changing attitudes.
The opening lyrics of ‘jealousy jealousy’
I kind of want to throw my phone across the room
Cause all I see are girls too good to be true
With paper-white teeth and perfect bodies
Wish I didn’t care
speaks to a sentiment that has been felt by a whole generation of young girls, guys and gender non-conforming people. They see the last generation of social media as inauthentic, performative and curated – and ultimately doing more harm than good.
Reflection has been good for the media and entertainment industry as a whole. The recent Framing Britney Spears documentary, exposed the public tyranny Spears went through for the sake of paparazzi fodder. There have also been countless cases of the reckoning the industry has had with racism which resulted in cancelled TV shows, YouTube channels being pulled, and probing documentaries. All of this led me to the question – can entertainment do more in response to today’s youth mindset?
Going against the power
Since the late 20th century, each generation has had its share of anti-establishment influencers. These are the people who have not only helped progress conversations around social and political issues but have also shaped culture. Gen Z is no different, but they are empowered to be louder.
Diversity + inclusion, mental health and sustainability are just some of the bigger topics that are occupying this restless youth and they want brands and entertainment powerhouses to reflect that.
The recent events around Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open, after the tennis player was threatened with suspension for refusing to attend press conferences for the sake of her mental health, is the most recent example of the war playing out with the establishment.
What is becoming clear is that the more the establishment pushes against voices and spaces, they will eventually lose more than just positive headlines..
Something real, please
It’s no surprise that brands want a piece of this generation – their attention, their validation and ultimately commitment to their products. Rodrigo’s lyrics capture the growing fatigue which is influencing a shift in how that generation wants to connect with each other, and use their collective power.
The next question is what is a brand’s place in that and how could entertainment reflect this change?
Brands have endless ambitions to ‘be authentic’ and ‘connect to the audience’ but we’re also in a position where they have the goods to do something good.