7 Pop-Punk Rockers Who Influenced Olivia Rodrigo’s Sound & Career

From Avril Lavigne to Paramore’s Hayley Williams, let’s dig into the singer’s influences from the 1990s and 2000s.

by Erica Campbell
Olivia Rodrigo and Hayley Williams of Paramore.
Will Heath/NBC/Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour comes out on May 21, and by now, you certainly know that the 18-year-old singer-songwriter counts the queen of vulnerable lovelorn melodies, Taylor Swift, as one of her most prominent influences. But after topping the charts for eight weeks with “drivers license,” it looks like Rodrigo is rearing into the rock lane, giving us the teenage angst and pop-punk petulance we deserve with the fiery “good 4 u” and impressive live performances.

Trust us, we know we don’t have to compare and contrast every female singer that’s ever made music that isn’t strictly pop, but why not salute the plaid-wearing, Doc Martens-donning foremothers of pop-punk, because as the Saturday Night Live skit on that very topic clarifies, yes she’s wearing her influences on her sleeve, “but it’s also pure Olivia, man.”

Plus, as Rodrigo shared in an interview with The Face on the sound of her upcoming album, “I feel like music is becoming increasingly genreless. I suppose I’m considered a pop artist, but I’ve never felt like one. This album is full of stuff that I like, which is so diverse. There are elements of alternative rock in there, alt-pop, some country, and definitely a lot of folk. I think anyone can find something they like hidden in one of the songs.”

So if you, like us, need something to hold you over while you wait for Rodrigo’s debut, here are 7 pop-punk rock purveyors to press play on.

1. Hayley Williams

It’s hard to think of anyone more capable of creating pure unadulterated pop-punk ballads with unparalleled vocals than Hayley Williams of Paramore, or as she was referred to by NPR, “The 21st Century's Pop-Punk Prophet.” However, with her latest single “good 4 u” Rodrigo is giving her a run for her money. In the track, Rodrigo shows off her vocal versatility, oscillating from singing to talking over electric guitars and a staccato bass line, much like Williams in Paramore’s “Misery Business.” In fact, this mashup of both tracks makes the reference and reverence to Paramore clear, plus it’s an absolute banger.

Williams put emotional fragility, powerhouse vocals, and punk rock authenticity front and center at a time when female-fronted bands were few and far between, giving a generation of young women, like Rodrigo not only someone to emulate but something to look up to.

2. Avril Lavigne

The week Olivia Rodrigo was born in 2003, Avril Lavigne was in the Top 10 with “I’m With You,” according to Rolling Stone. Coincidence? We think not. If that doesn’t tie the influenced to the influencer, just look at Lavigne’s legacy as one of the first songwriters of complicated relationship-themed pop-punk hits, like in her chant-along track “Girlfriend,” the formidable “Sk8er Boi,” and of course, the direct embodiment of that sentiment, “Complicated.” Rodrigo has not only been embodying Avril’s angsty sing-along-worthy lyrics but also replicating her wardrobe, recently rocking combat boots and a plaid corset with matching wide-leg pants (pictured above) and a chain belt you’d find at the checkout counter of any Hot Topic in the early aughts during her Saturday Night Live debut.

So, would the lyrics “It’s like we never even happened Baby / what the f*ck is up with that” in Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” exist without Lavigne singing “And hell yeah, I’m the motherf*cking princess” in “Girlfriend” first? Lucky for us, we’ll never have to find out.

3. Fefe Dobson

Fefe Dobson, is rarely mentioned in the pop-punk canon, but the singer made her mark as one of the few Black pop-punk singers of the early aughts, creating space for artists like Rodrigo who don’t fit into the predominately white male makeup of the genre.

Dobson was just 17 when she entered the pop-punk scene with tracks like “Everything” and “Take Me Away” on her debut album, one that saw her leaning into the same teenage love sentiments of falling hard and questioning it all we see in tracks like “drivers license.” Speaking to Nylon, Dobson discussed how much the scene has changed and made space for diverse artists: “I definitely think there’s no such thing as genre these days. When I was coming out in 2003, I remember people saying to my manager, like “Do you really think this Black girl’s going to do this rock-pop stuff and this is going to work?” I don‘t think that would be even said today. I think that’s a big difference.”

4. Gwen Stefani

Is it dramatic to say that without the anthemic, feminist, pop-punk rock track “Just A Girl” released way back in 1995, none of the new school punk-pop girls would be making visceral “girls to the front” vulnerable hits right now? Maybe, but it’s hard to say. With her pension for performance, fashion, candid lyricism, and devil-may-care attitude, Gwen Stefani has not only made space for herself but artists who want to replicate that same energy.

Rodrigo has never shied away from her love of No Doubt’s leading lady. On multiple occasions she’s discussed finding Stefani’s fearless ability to share personal stories and details about her innermost thoughts and desires as inspiring (and if that’s not punk rock, what is?). In an interview with Elle, it was even revealed that Stefani’s portrait was tapped to Rodrigo’s bedroom wall in a sort of shrine, dedicated to songwriters she admires. In a full-circle moment, Stefani wrote about Rodrigo for Time magazine’s 2021 TIME100 Next list, sharing, that “by pouring her heart out with so much courage and total command of her talent, Olivia made magic.” We agree.

5. Lindsay Lohan

There can be a lot said about the ins and outs, ups and downs, of Lindsay Lohan’s career. However, the platinum-certified album Speak was unquestionably a success for the then-Disney-star-turned-pop-singer who was one of the first stars of the channel to make that career pivot. She never toured for the Billboard charting album, but she did make the path from Disney star to pop-punk artists seem viable.

Rodrigo, who currently stars in the meta High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, discussed embracing her Disney start with Interview Magazine, sharing, “It’s been something I’ve given a lot of thought to, that Disney-girl archetype. I feel like there’s such a clear trajectory for what that is, and there’s so many amazing artists who have done it before me. I did grow up on Disney Channel. I am sort of this goody two-shoes. And I think shying away from that would do my art an injustice too. I just try to be as real as I possibly can.”

6. Liz Phair

Liz Phair’s fourth studio album was a masterclass in how to write a pop-punk romantic ballad while adding expletives to the climax of the track, like in her hit single “Why Can’t I?” It’s easy to see that same strategy playing out as Rodrigo sings, “I still f*cking love you, baby” in “drivers license.” Phair’s eponymous album also features the self-love ballad “Extraordinary,” which embraces her light and dark sides, something we’ve seen in Rodrigo’s first few singles and are sure to see in her debut. At the time of the album’s release, Phair was critically panned for selling out with Pitchfork claiming she’d reduced herself to “teen-pop.” But, as well all know nearly two decades on, there’s no truth to teen-pop being reductive, and Phair’s self-titled album has stood the test of time.

7. Ashlee Simpson

Back in 2004, Ashlee Simpson released her debut album Autobiography, an intimate pop-punk telling of her life. She also documented the entire process of creating the album on her series The Ashlee Simpson Show, something that was unprecedented at the time, but something current stars like Rodrigo who are used to being on camera and giving fans behind-the-scene looks at their creative process are now used to doing.

Simpson also deserves credit for pushing the boundaries of what was “allowed” for pop stars at the time, going her own way by dying her blonde hair black, and pushing back on her label who wanted her to make bubblegum pop. She ushered in an era of sad girl teen pop ballads with tracks like “Pieces Of Me” that artists like Rodrigo are still emulating today.

Olivia Rodrigo

We’ve got to end this story with Rodrigo herself, setting a bedroom on fire in “good 4 u,” and subsequently igniting another phase of her ever-evolving career. She’s got a sound all her own, and we can’t wait to see where she takes it to next. We know she’s here to stay.

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR is due out May 21 via Geffen Records.