If you’ve been blasting Olivia Rodrigo‘s GUTS album in your room lately and you find your dad singing along a bit too excitedly to “Get Him Back!,” you’re not alone. The 20-year-old singer told People magazine that her angsty pop-punk anthems about teenage drama and the pain of being pure at heart appear to be landing with fans beyond her Gen Z target audience.
“I actually think that I’m really excited by the way that people are getting behind artists that normally would be deemed for young people,” she told the magazine. “I love interacting with fans who are my age and people who are going through the struggles that I’m going through in real time, but it’s been really fun also to experience those girls’ dads be like, ‘Wow, I remember when I was going through that heartbreak.’”
Specifically, Rodrigo said her Grammy-winning Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 breakthrough single “Drivers License” seemed to cross over to a much wider audience than listeners her age experiencing the highs and lows of first love. “I remember when that came out, people of all walks of life would just come up to me and be like, ‘I remember exactly where I was when I was experiencing that heartbreak for the first time,’” Rodrigo said of the 2021 hit. “It’s just such a cool thing to see that we’re all so much more alike than we are different. It just makes me feel less alone. I’m just like, ‘Wow, my experiences aren’t really that unique. Everyone has experienced some sort of pain or loss and insecurity.’”
The good news for Rodrigo — whose sophomore album, GUTS, just debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart in its first week — was that her songs are making it so that “people are starting to take teenage girl music a little more seriously, which I’m really happy about.”
It’s not just dads, though, according to The Daily Beast (pay-walled). The site spoke to AP reporter Maria Sherman, who said that she’s noticed another recent evolution in the demo obsessing over Rodrigo’s music that further widens the singer’s reach. “We’re seeing that conversation evolve where it’s accepted that people of all ages, particularly older women, are relating to and feeling for Olivia Rodrigo, and now there’s a connection with men, too,” she said. “Not to say that they weren’t listening to it, but I’ve certainly seen this conversation come up quite a bit.”
These millennial men, dubbed “Rodri-Bros” by the Beast, have no problem singing along, and relating to, the singer’s emo tales of romantic wreckage. One of those bros, 35-year-old Brooklynite Jeff, said he was a fan because of the “Gen Z of it all. I think I’m just sort of fascinated by that generation. In the last few years, I’ve started realizing that as a smack-dab-in-the-middle millennial, I’m no longer part of the young, fun, progressive generation, at least comparatively. I really like the openness and maturity and vulnerability in her music that I think is indicative of a lot of Gen Z.”
The allure might also have something to do with an initial attraction to Rodrigo’s signature sound, which mixes pop songcraft with a heavy nod to late ’90s and early 2000’s bands that appealed to these guys in the first place, including My Chemical Romance, Paramore and Dashboard Confessional.
The main reason so many of these wicked sensitive dudes say they aren’t afraid to harmonize along with “Deja Vu,” though, is precisely because Rodrigo taps so directly into the universal feelings of being a teenager. “She captures a lot of the experience of being an insecure teen without compromising a more adult voice to do so,” said married high school teacher Jesse, 34. “Even if you don’t like her music, I don’t know that there are many artists that are able to thread that needle in the same way.”