Olivia Rodrigo album cover for "Sour," which began her feud with Carpenter. She stands with her tongue out and she arms crossed.

Sabrina Carpenter vs. Olivia Rodrigo: Who Bullied Who?

It has been over a year since the release of Rodrigo's breakup album, yet fans are still confused about whose side they're truly on.
October 19, 2022
10 mins read

Relationships are tricky, especially when they are in the public eye; when relationships are constantly in the media, so, too, are their breakups and exes. While it may seem obvious that breakups should be a private affair, some celebrities seem to be so desperate to rise to fame that they’ll do anything, even if that means writing a breakup song about their ex and simultaneously dragging their current partner into the drama. Over the past year, Olivia Rodrigo, Sabrina Carpenter and Joshua Bassett have all become familiar with the concept of a public breakup.

The Story of Oliva and Josh … and Sabrina

On Jan. 8, 2021, Olivia Rodrigo made a name for herself when she released her song “Driver’s License,” which quickly gained popularity. Though it has never officially been confirmed, it’s speculated that Rodrigo’s song was about her ex-boyfriend Joshua Bassett and his new love interest, Sabrina Carpenter.

None of the three celebrities are new to the spotlight. In fact, Carpenter has been the center of attention since she was 2 years old, and her acting and music career began when she was only 12 years old after the release of her first-ever single, “Can’t Blame a Girl for Trying.” Carpenter also made an appearance in the hit Disney Channel show “Austin and Ally,” where she played a quirky, shy character named Lucy Gluckman. She later went on to star as Maya Hart on the popular Disney Channel show “Girl Meets World” — the spinoff series of “Boy Meets World.” Since then, she’s been in several movies and TV shows and has found a lot of success with her music career.

Bassett was also a fellow Disney star, making a few appearances on the show “Stuck In the Middle” before finally landing a lead role in the Disney Plus show “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” This is where he met and started dating Olivia Rodrigo and how the drama began.

Rodrigo, like Carpenter, is a musician and actress. Before starring in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” alongside Bassett, she was on another, not-so-popular Disney show called “Bizaardvark.” It wasn’t until later when she landed the lead role of Nini in the “High School Musical” spinoff that she gained more attention. Later on, her fame skyrocketed when she released the breakup song of the year in 2021.

A Very Telling Lyric Change

In an Instagram clip from spring 2020 — that has since been deleted — Rodrigo posted an unreleased, unrecorded version of “Driver’s License.” This is the segue to the drama.

Fans were quick to conclude that the song was about Bassett and Carpenter due to a specific lyric change. According to this clip from the original version posted on Rodrigo’s Instagram, the lyrics “and you’re probably with that brunette girl,” was later changed to “and you’re probably with that blonde girl.” Upon hearing the song, fans believed that it was a dig at Carpenter and Bassett’s relationship since Carpenter is a blonde, and she and Bassett had been spotted together prior to the song’s release.

The world was quick to turn against both Carpenter and Bassett, choosing instead to take Rodrigo’s side, claiming that Bassett had cheated. Some even went as far as to comment with death threats on both Bassett’s and Carpenter’s social media platforms.

Sabrina Carpenter Sings Back

Carpenter was on the receiving end of most of the hate. Shortly after “Driver’s License” was released, Carpenter released her own song titled “Skin,” which listeners claimed was a diss at Rodrigo. Many asserted that Carpenter, who was 21 years old at the time, was a bully for attacking an 18-year-old. In the song, Carpenter referenced the “blonde girl” lyric in the lines: “Maybe you didn’t mean it. Maybe blonde was the only rhyme.”

Carpenter also posted a since-deleted post on her Instagram, found in this article from TooFab, where she stated: “I wasn’t bothered by a few lines in a (magnificent) song and wrote a diss track about it. I was at a tipping point in my life for countless reasons. So, I was inspired to do what I usually do to cope, write something that I wish I could’ve told myself in the past.”

After hearing that one lyric, Rodrigo’s fans were not too pleased. In an article from The Odyssey by Amelia Roberts, it was claimed, “Rodrigo never said a mean thing about Carpenter in her song. In fact, as mentioned before, Rodrigo said that Carpenter is everything she’s insecure about.” Roberts also claimed that Carpenter is an “almost 22-year-old woman who basically just made a song bullying a teenager, and rubbing salt in the wound.”

However, Carpenter’s fans could say the same about Rodrigo. Sure, Rodrigo did only write one lyric that may or may not have been about Carpenter, but that one lyric caused Bassett and Carpenter an unnecessarily large amount of hate.

Is Rodrigo the Bully?

Bassett was hospitalized just a few days after the release of Rodrigo’s song. He took to Instagram to post that he had been hospitalized on the day that his song “Lie, Lie, Lie,” which was rumored to be about Rodrigo, was supposed to be released.

In an article from Insider by Callie Ahlgrim, Bassett confirmed that he had suffered from septic shock and heart failure, stating: “I’m sure stress had a part in it.” He even said, “The doctors told me that I had a 30% chance of survival. They told me that if I had not checked into the hospital within 12 hours, I would’ve been found dead in my apartment.”

While it’s not confirmed that Bassett’s hospitalization was caused by or related to the release of Rodrigo’s song, it does seem very coincidental that it occurred only a few days after the release of the song that caused the hate in the first place.

On the flip side, Rodrigo could also be seen as a bully because while all the hate was being directed toward Carpenter and Bassett, Rodrigo never once came to either of their defenses or even tried to get her fans to stop their speculations. If anything, she just sat back and let it all happen while she got her money and stardom.

Carpenter finally spoke her truth in July of this year when she released her new album, “Emails I Can’t Send.” In the track titled “because i liked a boy,” she addressed all the drama and hate she got due to one “non-harmful” line in Rodrigo’s song.

The song and the album were long-awaited, and fans believed that Carpenter deserved to tell her truth without getting hate — which is totally understandable.

Rodrigo In the Wrong

Rodrigo was the one in the wrong in this situation. She knew about the hate and damage she was causing, she just didn’t care because she was getting the attention that she wanted. She got to meet Taylor Swift and live her life while two others were being dragged down by her actions.

At the end of the day, Carpenter confirmed in the song “because i liked a boy” that when everything happened, she and Bassett had been broken up, essentially saying that the drama was for nothing.

It’s been a year since the drama happened and it seems like everyone has moved on and is happily pursuing their respective careers.

Andrea Cepeda, University of North Texas

Writer Profile

Andrea Cepeda

University of North Texas
Creative Writing

First year college student majoring in creative writing. I love reading and writing, mainly fiction, but I am open to all genres.

1 Comment

  1. It’s important to approach the Sabrina Carpenter vs. Olivia Rodrigo situation with an open mind and remember that speculation and assumptions can be harmful to both parties involved.

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