Talented People Are Younger Than You, Get Used To It

By Sara Levine | May 26, 2021
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As a millennial, sometimes, when younger generations make fun of us, it feels unwarranted. An unwelcome attack. And sometimes, we bring it upon ourselves. The constant hand-wringing over whether we’re too old to listen to Olivia Rodrigo’s music is one of those latter times. In case you aren’t aware: Olivia Rodrigo is an 18-year-old who has had massive success in the music industry lately. Her song “drivers license” broke Spotify records for the most streams in a single day (excluding Christmas music), racking up over 285 million streams in less than a month. Rodrigo became the first female artist in the U.S. since 1998 to have her first song debut at number one. Her latest single, “good 4 u”, also debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Rodrigo has 9.9 million followers on Instagram and has earned recognition from stars like Cardi B and Taylor Swift. The girl is massively popular. And still, millennials all over the internet—on Twitter, in articles—are freaking out over what our enthusiasm for her music says about our own maturity. “Olivia Rodrigo, Please, I Am 30,” begs The Cut. Vogue implores, “Help! Am I Too Old To Feel So Seen By Olivia Rodrigo’s New Album?” No, you’re not, and we don’t need two separate yet identical takes of this.

If the #girlboss aesthetic is cheugy, constant self-deprecation over aging (when you are, in fact, still below middle age) has got to be on the spectrum of cheug. Or if not, it’s at least cringe. Like, it’s one thing to come to the crushing realization that Shrek came out 20 years ago (even though you yourself are 29 and you saw the movie in theaters when you were about 9 years old, which is how math works) and tweet about it. It’s another thing to do this performance theater about feeling weird about the fact that you enjoy music written and performed by an 18-year-old. Billie Eilish is 19; did anyone spend significant brain energy on the moral quandary of admitting “Bad Guy” is a bop? We didn’t; we just jammed out (yes, I realize the phrase “jammed out” is so ancient it belongs in a museum, it’s fine, I’m leaning in) and went on with our lives.

I do get the hesitation. After all, in her smash hit “drivers license”, Rodrigo sings, “I got my drivers license last week / just like we always talked about.” The girl is in high school, and she makes no effort to hide that fact. Therefore, is it weird to be approaching your 30s, crying to a song that is clearly centered on 17-year-olds (give or take half a year, depending on the state)? You could look at it like that, or you could look at it like: Who better to relate to the feeling of getting your drivers license than people who’ve had it for so long they take it for granted? Millennials love 90s and early 2000s nostalgia; this is just that! Plus, as much as moody 16-year-olds think they know what heartbreak feels like, they don’t. Oh, your senior year boyfriend who you thought you’d be with forever dumped you because you’re going to colleges across the country? Right, I get how that feels like the end of the world, because it did when I was 17, but that’s the point—I was 17. Why don’t you date in a big city for a year, constantly get dumped at the 6-8 week mark, grapple with the very real possibility that you may be alone forever—or at least, until your eggs dry up—and then come talk to me about needing a cute little song to cry to. Suddenly, losing your boyfriend of six months who low-key tried to date your friend first and whose best attributes are his flippy hair and being good at basketball for a mid-sized high school won’t seem like the end of the world.

Then we get to “good 4 u”, which should be even easier to listen to without feeling creepy. It’s a good song, but ask yourself: do you really like “good 4 u”, or has it just been a while since you’ve listened to “Misery Business”? Again, it’s all just cleverly packaged nostalgia disguising itself as something new. Nothing weird about revisiting your youth! (Well, to an extent.) The same people who are acting #attacked by Olivia Rodrigo’s new album are the same people who tweeted a million times about crying to Folklore. How quick ye forget!

Not to mention, these lyrics are pretty mature. “Good for you, I guess that you’ve been workin’ on yourself / I guess that therapist I found for you, she really helped”? Most men I know wouldn’t have considered therapy until at least their 20s. (Being generous.) And calling your ex a sociopath because he dared move on before you? An insult I wouldn’t have dreamed of until, again, encountering the sociopaths moonlighting as finance bros in my mid-20s in New York City. Sociopath wasn’t even one of my SAT words! There’s also the line “Well, good for you, I guess you’re gettin’ everything you want / You bought a new car and your career’s really takin’ off”. At first glance, this might feel like more high school fuel, but think about it. What high schooler can afford a car working their minimum wage job at Carvel or whatever? What high schooler even has a “career” that can even take off? Yes, yes, massively famous high schoolers who starred on Disney Channel shows, but that’s not the point. Most teenagers can’t relate to buying themselves a car (certainly not a new one). Their parents buying them a car? Sure, but not buying their own car, and definitely not having a career. If you ask me, this is geriatric millennial bait. We get to feel hip and ~in the know~ (despite the fact that Rodrigo has over 43 million monthly Spotify listeners) as we relive our angst.

Sure, Rodrigo is young, but she sings about things we can relate to, which is kind of the whole point. It’s not like she’s JoJo Siwa, who has singles titled “High Top Shoes”, “Bop!”, and, most tellingly, “Kid In A Candy Store”. It’s not exactly marketed for kids. Did anyone act like this when Ariana Grande made the leap from Nickelodeon star to pop singer?

A part of getting older is accepting that the new, fresh talent is going to be younger than us. That’s simply the way it is. What do you expect, a 35-year-old phenom to bust onto the scene? It’s not unheard of, but most of the household names we know had their talent cultivated from a young age. Much like running into your ex while you’re out on a date, enjoying this music is only weird if you make it weird. So stop making it weird. It’s not weird to like music enjoyed by over 43 million people. If anything, dare I say, it’s kind of basic.

Image: JMEnternational/JMEnternational for BRIT Awards/Getty Images

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