Pop Culture with Aminah: The Olivia/Joshua/Sabrina Drama (with a Timeline)


Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

By now, you’ve probably heard about the alleged love triangle between Disney stars Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett and Sabrina Carpenter. This complex drama (I’ve included a timeline of events at the end of the article to help) deserves some attention. For context, Olivia and Joshua are castmates on the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Joshua and Sabrina were first linked in August 2020, when they were spotted having lunch together, and again on Halloween when they dressed up as Disney Channel original characters Sharkboy and Lavagirl.


Olivia released her first single, titled “drivers license,” on Jan. 8. The song resonated with millions of people, earning her the most streams ever for a song on Spotify and a spot at number one on the Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. Teenage heartbreaks look juvenile once a person moves on, but they feel so real in the moment. Olivia’s song accurately captures that pain. She doesn’t try to use flowery language to describe her feelings. She quite literally writes about being sad and what’s making her sad.


The song is speculated to be about Joshua, who actually taught her how to drive. This information was thrilling enough for fans, but what made the situation even more scandalous was Joshua’s music that came after it. Joshua released a single titled “Lie Lie Lie” preceding his upcoming EP. He explained in an interview that he wrote it about a former friend who had been lying about him behind his back. His song doesn’t seem to reference any history with Olivia, but there are visual parallels between their music videos (they both lean out of a white car at night, which many fans believe reflects a shared memory).


Sabrina’s song “Skin” was released eight days after Joshua’s “Lie Lie Lie.” Even though Joshua’s song appears to be about a separate situation, “Skin” seems to directly speak about Olivia. In Olivia’s song, she says that the person is “probably with that blonde girl” who is “so much older” than her (Sabrina is blonde and four years older than her). In Sabrina’s song, she says that “maybe blonde was the only rhyme.” Sabrina’s song received mixed reviews. Some felt she was responding to a song or situation that wasn’t about her, while others believed that she had the right to defend herself in response to “drivers license.”


Olivia hasn’t confirmed that “drivers license” is about Joshua, but she hasn’t denied it either. Sabrina made an Instagram post a few days after releasing her single saying that her song was not a response to a “(magnificent) song,” but rather one about a myriad of issues. To be fair, all three artists have been working on their songs for months now (though it does seem they started writing them around the same time).


Do I think Sabrina and Joshua were responding to Olivia? No. But do I think there was intentional overlap? Absolutely. There’s already a theory that this entire saga was orchestrated by Disney. But I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone’s PR team had backroom conversations.


A Basic Timeline


Nov. 8, 2019: the first episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series comes out on Disney+. This is the first time Joshua and Olivia are linked together.


Aug. 17, 2020: Sabrina and Joshua are spotted grabbing lunch in Studio City with Sabrina’s sister, Sarah Carpenter.


Oct. 31, 2020: Sabrina and Joshua post TikToks of their Sharkboy and Lavagirl costumes, with fans suspecting a deeper meaning.


Jan. 8, 2021: Olivia releases her single “drivers license.” The song set off a firestorm on social media, with many speculating it was about her former romance with Joshua.


Jan. 10, 2021: An interview Olivia did with Genius resurfaces where she explains that Joshua taught her to drive in an In-N-Out parking lot before she even had her permit.


Jan. 14, 2021: Joshua releases his single “Lie Lie Lie.” Despite rumors that the song targets Olivia, Joshua explains that he wrote it about a former friend who had been lying about him behind his back.


Jan. 22, 2021: Sabrina releases her single “Skin.” The song appears to have several references to Olivia’s song.


By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer

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