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While growing up in Temecula, California, Rodrigo's first love was singing. She started vocal lessons in kindergarten and took up piano soon after; by age 12, she was playing guitar. At the suggestion of her vocal coach, she pursued acting, and she appeared in productions at her elementary and middle schools -- experiences that led her to seek professional acting jobs. In 2016, she was cast as Paige Olvera in in the Disney Channel series Bizaardvark. It was an opportunity that led to Rodrigo winning the lead role of Nini Salazar-Roberts in the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, a mockumentary-style show that follows the on- and off-stage drama that happens when the student body of East High puts on a production of High School Musical: The Musical. When the show's creators -- which included writer and Broadway librettist Tim Federle -- learned Rodrigo was a songwriter, they encouraged her to pen original songs for the series. Written in Rodrigo's living room during finals week of her sophomore year, "All I Want" garnered millions of streams after the show's debut in November 2019 and entered the U.S. and Canada Hot 100 singles charts in January 2020. Rodrigo also collaborated with her co-star Joshua Bassett on the duet "Just for a Moment."
In the wake of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' success, she continued to work on her own music with producer Dan Nigro (who also collaborated with Carly Rae Jepsen and Sky Ferreira), looking to the confessional songwriting of Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, and especially Taylor Swift for inspiration. After she signed with Interscope and Geffen in 2020, Rodrigo's debut single, "Driver's License," arrived in January 2021 and quickly topped charts around the world. This included the Billboard Hot 100, making her the youngest artist to debut at number one on that chart. Along with breaking several streaming records, the single was a multi-platinum success in the U.S. and Canada and went platinum in several other countries. That April, her second single, "Deja Vu," appeared, and its debut at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 made her the first artist in history to have her first two singles debut within the Top Ten. A third single, "Good 4 U," arrived in May. Like "Driver's License," it topped the Billboard Hot 100, and Rodrigo became the first artist in Billboard's history to have their first three singles debut in the Top Ten of that chart.
In turn, May 2021's Sour became the first debut album to feature two singles that topped the Billboard Hot 100 upon release. Initially intended to be an EP, the album mixed pop, alt-rock, and folk and took inspiration from No Doubt, the White Stripes, Alanis Morrissette, and Kacey Musgraves, among others. Co-written by Rodrigo and Nigro, Sour was hailed for its genre-defying sound and candid songwriting. It was a massive global success, becoming the second-best-selling album in the world in 2021. In the U.S., Sour debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, ultimately spending five weeks total in that spot (an accomplishment that made it 2021's longest-running number one album by a female artist) and 52 weeks in the Top Ten, earning multiple platinum certifications along the way. Shortly after Sour's release, all of its tracks appeared in the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100, with "Traitor" becoming its fourth single to debut in the Top Ten. In the U.K., Sour debuted at number one the same week "Good 4 U" topped the U.K. Singles chart, making Rodrigo the youngest solo artist to have the top-selling release on both charts. The album also topped the charts in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, where it spent ten consecutive weeks in the peak position.
As Sour broke chart records, Rodrigo's concert film Sour Prom premiered in June 2021. That December, she launched her world tour, performed in Hope for the Holidays, Musicians on Call's second annual virtual concert for hospital patients, won the People's Choice Award for Album of the Year, and was named Time Magazine's Entertainer of the Year. Sour and Rodrigo's accolades continued into 2022. At that year's Grammy Awards, she won the awards for Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance for "Driver's License," and Best Pop Vocal album for Sour (Rodrigo was nominated in all four of the general Grammy categories, making her the second-youngest artist after Billie Eilish to earn this recognition). She also won the Juno Award for International Album of the Year; the Brit Award for International Song of the Year; seven Billboard Music Awards including Top Billboard 200 album, Top New Artist, and Top Female Artist; and the ASCAP Award for Songwriter of the Year.
March 2022 saw the premiere of Driving Home 2 U, a documentary chronicling the creation of Sour. That April, Rodrigo kicked off her first headlining concert tour. She covered Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" at every show, and Lavigne joined her in performing the song at the Toronto date. At her Glastonbury Festival appearance that June, Rodrigo and Lily Allen performed "Fuck You" as a response to the overruling of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. In September 2022, Rodrigo departed High School Musical: The Musical: The Series at the end of its third season.
At the end of the year and into 2023, Rodrigo did more charity work, participating in the third annual Venture Into Cures virtual fundraising event for families with epidermolysis bullosa and other rare diseases, the third annual Musicians on Call virtual concert, and the MusiCares Foundation Charity Relief Auction. She released "Vampire," her first single in two years, that June. Her third single to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, it also topped the charts in the U.K., Australia, Ireland, Canada, and New Zealand. That song and August's multinational Top 10 hit "Bad Idea Right?" appeared on September 2023's Guts. Produced by Nigro and recorded at his garage studio, Rodrigo's second album built on Sour's wry rock and sweeping ballads as Rodrigo took stock of her tumultuous teen years. ~ Heather Phares