Olivia Rodrigo’s Radio Reign Continues: ‘She’s Hitting Our Listeners Right in the Heart’

Olivia Rodrigo’s Radio Reign Continues: ‘She’s Hitting Our Listeners Right in the Heart’

To paraphrase Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U,” pop radio found a new girl and it only took … less than six months.

The song rules Billboard’s Pop Airplay chart (dated July 31) for a second week, pacing the singer-songwriter and actress’ haul of three titles currently on the survey. Prior single (by about two months) “Deja Vu” continues its steady ascent, pushing 5-4, and “Traitor” debuts at No. 40. Her breakthrough smash “Drivers License” reigned for five weeks in March and April, following its debut in January.

All four songs are from Rodrigo’s debut Geffen/Interscope album Sour, which has topped the Billboard 200 for four weeks and earned 1.7 million equivalent album units, according to MRC Data. (“Traitor” is so far scaling Pop Airplay as an album cut, not as a properly promoted single like her other three charted entries.)

Pop radio programmers are both marveling at and helping to contribute to Rodrigo’s success, with “Good 4 U” and “Deja Vu” ranking as the two most played songs on multiple stations in the latest tracking week.

“Olivia is unstoppable at this point,” says Erik Bradley, music director at Audacy-owned KNOU Los Angeles and assistant program director/md at WBBM-FM Chicago, both of which report to the Pop Airplay chart. “Both ‘Deja Vu’ and ‘Good 4 U’ are massive, with more to follow.”

R Dub!, pd at Pop Airplay panelist XHTZ San Diego, points to Rodrigo’s lyrics, and those of her main writing partner (and Billy Joel fan), Dan Nigro, as key to her appeal. “I think Olivia’s storytelling ability was really what was missing [on pop radio] as of late. She’s hitting our target listeners right in the heart with lyrics like (in “Deja Vu”), ‘So when you gonna tell her that we did that too? / She thinks it’s special, but it’s all reused …’ “

“I mean, wow. Listen to just about any other song on our playlist today and the lyrics do not have the gravity of Olivia’s.”

Sonically, Rodrigo is also adding elements to pop radio that make her songs stand out, including the drum and guitar crunch in “Good 4 U.” “It has that early 2000s, Avril Lavigne, pop-punk vibe that sounds so good,” muses Ben Davis, Alpha Media pop format captain and operations manager of Pop Airplay reporter WDJX Louisville, Ky.

Eric Fox, pd of Alpha Media’s KLLY Bakersfield, Calif., which also contributes to the Pop Airplay chart, cites both the sound and lyrics as drivers (no pun intended) of Rodrigo’s second No. 1 at the format. “‘Good 4 U’ has such a great summer vibe that’s fresh. It also connects with anyone that’s dealt with a hard breakup.”

“She also really rocks it on her track ‘Brutal,’ which is excellent,” adds Jeremy Rice, Cox Media Group pop format leader and WBLI Nassau, N.Y., pd. The fellow Sour song reached No. 29 on the Alternative Airplay chart in June. “There are, like, seven or eight hits on this album,” Rice says.

If “Drivers License,” “Deja Vu” and “Good 4 U” weren’t evidence enough that (to, again, borrow from the Pop Airplay chart’s current top title), Rodrigo’s career is really takin’ off, “Traitor” is further cementing her star status.

Rice calls the ballad “a beautifully made record.”

“It’s still early on ‘Traitor,’ but everything I see on the song says the audience is seeking it out and listening to it again and again,” Davis shares. The song was Rodrigo’s second-most streamed in the latest tracking week, with 13 million U.S. clicks, just ahead of “Deja Vu” (12.6 million) and trailing only “Good 4 U” (24.4 million).

“So, why not play a song the audience wants to hear?” Davis says. “Yes, there’s a lot of Olivia on the radio right now, but if we’re a reflection of pop culture and what the audience wants to hear, then that’s what we should be doing. The data and metrics we see on her are unlike what I’ve seen in a long time. Pop has been waiting for an artist like Olivia Rodrigo.”

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