By Deepa Lakshmin
“This has been the most magical year of my life,” Olivia Rodrigo said in her first-ever Video Music Awards acceptance speech Sunday night (September 12) at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, dedicating the award to “all of the girls who write songs on their bedroom floor.” She was taking home the Moonperson for Song of the Year for her record-breaking smash hit “Drivers License,” but little did she know she’d be back on stage soon after as the 2021 Best New Artist.
The Sour singer-songwriter and VMA performer has, indeed, had a banner year with numerous chart-topping singles and a debut album that showcases her talent and skill as an artist. Though the LP is packed with coming-of-age stories and teenage memories, the raw authenticity and emotion behind every chorus and bridge have captured the hearts of fans across generations. From the relatable angst of “Brutal” to the catharsis of “Good 4 U” to the bittersweet “Hope Ur Ok,” her music captures the messiness and beauty of being alive, falling in and out of love with others and with yourself. As she told previously told MTV News, Sour reflects a time of her life when “everything that I had that was, like, really awesome and good in my life went really sour.”
Other Best New Artist nominees included The Kid Laroi, Saweetie, 24kGoldn, Giveon, and Polo G — all rising artists making a name for themselves and crafting art that speaks their truth and resonates with millions of fans. The allure of the Best New Artist category is that it’s not just about what the nominees have accomplished already; it’s a testament to the enduring impact their future work could have on the music industry and beyond. Doja Cat, who nabbed Push Best New Artist at the 2020 VMAs, went on to host this year’s awards show and continues to build upon her breakout success.
In her Best New Artist acceptance speech, Rodrigo thanked her fans for helping her get to where she is today, as well as fellow Best New Artist nominee The Kid Laroi: “I want to thank Laroi also, who inspires me every day to be a better artist. I love him so much. I just feel so grateful that I get to write music and make stuff that I love and call it my job, so thank you guys again for letting me do that.”
That’s the dream for countless artists, including the kids with big hearts pouring themselves into songs scrawled in their childhood bedrooms, so it seems fitting to end this with some songwriting advice Rodrigo shared with MTV News earlier this year when she was named the MTV Push artist for May. “I really think that more or less forcing yourself to write a song sometimes is really beneficial,” she said. “I think you can't rely on those lightning bolts of ideas to strike you all the time.” Take note, songwriters, and maybe someday you’ll have your own magical year.
The 2021 VMAs aired live on MTV from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Find the full list of winners right here and keep up with all of the night's biggest VMA moments!