The Rise of Sabrina Carpenter: re-defining girlhood fun

Look out, world, Sabrina Carpenter is the new IT girl of pop. There, I said it. She is also undeniably my new girl crush.  

Carpenter has been pursuing a music career since starring in the Disney Channel teen favourite, Girl Meets World, which ran from 2014 to 2017. For many years, she was viewed as a teenybop, all-American, good girl who largely produced singles used for various Disney channel shows and other teenage media.  

Even though she has released several studio albums, we hadn’t heard much from the teen star again until 2021, when she was thrust into the spotlight after she launched skin, a single which has widely been suspected to be in response to Olivia Rodrigo’s chart-topping song driver’s license. The two songs dominated the charts, and gossip spread like wildfire about an alleged love triangle between the two women and actor and singer Joshua Bassett.  

After the success, infamy and intense speculation that arose from the release of skin, she released a studio album entitled emails I can’t send in 2022. This was when I knew she was the real deal as an artist. 

Carpenter has re-emerged, a phoenix rising from the ashes. It’s safe to say that her days of doe-eyed innocence and teen pop are over. She recently said in an interview with Vogue that her “prior music put forth a facet of herself that she didn’t feel was authentic at the time”.  

Personally, I could not agree more. As a performer, she has transformed into someone you cannot draw your eyes away from. She has recently performed as the opening act on Taylor Swift’s record-breaking Era’s Tour. To be the opening act to Swift is a feat in and of itself, but what is more impressive is the fact that, at times, the crowd genuinely seems to forget that this isn’t just a Sabrina Carpenter concert. 

For a “mere” opening act, she puts on a SHOW. Donning sexy, sultry outfits that are girly, cheeky and fun, Carpenter struts on stage in chunky heeled boots and fur-lined mini dresses, her long blonde hair tossed over a shoulder. She has been compared to a real-life Bratz doll or a Barbie, and honestly, I can’t get enough.  

Naturally, of course, many (if not all) women in the spotlight are pigeonholed into a particular role; for Carpenter in 2021, she was cast as the “homewrecker” and the “slut”. Regardless of the truth as to what did or did not happen in her relationship with Bassett, I think it is truly incredible how she has not only risen to success but has also waged a war of reclamation.  

She has toyed with and capitalised on the way she was perceived and has flipped the narrative; she is sexy, confident and powerful. After being sexualised and fawned over by men, she seems to have won her female audience over and is now very much “for the girls”.  

For me, Carpenter has provided one of the few examples that I have seen of a female pop star who is unafraid and unashamed of her own beauty and sexuality, and yet so content in her girlhood and femininity.  

She has not only shocked and impressed audiences with her showmanship, but her lyricism has been show-stopping. From dainty and striking ballads on Letters I Can’t Send like, because I liked a boy, skinny dipping, fast times and tornado warning. Carpenter weaves an almost conversational narrative through glimmering pop backdrops, to tongue in cheek lyrics and songs, such as the infamous nonsense, and her new Christmas EP entitled fruitcake.  

Different to almost any artist I have seen before, she has managed to balance these serious, and often cutting songs with humorous and often scandalous lyrics and songs.

In nonsense, she finishes every performance with a different sexual outro depending on the city she is performing in. For example, “How to ride it, I can think of 5 ways/ My head goes so hard I’m giving migraines/ How loud do you get in Buenos Aires,”. Or how about “Boy come over, this is not a drill/ He said, ‘Get on top,’ I said, ‘I will’/ Then he made me come… to Brazil!”. 

Since the Era’s tour, the outros to nonsense have quickly taken on a life of their own, with fans in each location anxiously awaiting Carpenter’s outro for their city. Part of this racy performance is one of the many ways Carpenter has reinvented herself from Disney star to her older, cooler counterpart.  

For female artists, there is a fine societal line to walk in terms of sex appeal and being too conservative, being innocent enough, and yet desirable enough to remain in the male gaze and spotlight.  

I think it is empowering, refreshing and exciting to see Carpenter reclaim her sensuality, embrace her beauty, toy with innuendos in her song, and yet still predominantly appeal to young women in an inclusive, fun and inherently “girly” manner.  

I’m amazed at how she manages to walk that line, balancing her tongue-in-cheek comments with beautiful, soft lyricism. As a young woman in my early 20s, to see Carpenter, at just 24, don the stage with confidence and the energy and kindness of chatting to other girls in the bathroom on a night out, leaves me wanting more. It is the kind of girlhood energy we all deserve. 

I can’t wait to see what the rising princess of pop has in store for 2024.  

Jess Morgan
Jess Morgan

Jess Morgan is a Law and Journalism student at QUT, she has always been drawn to words and the way we shape them. She has been published in QUT Glass, The Stew Magazine, the interactive exhibit ‘Love Letters to Brisbane’, ScratchThat, as well as being a reader for QUT Literary Salon. She has a passion for poetry, and free-form creative styles. Jess believes that stories shape us and connect us to one another. Find more of her work @wordsfromthe.sky_

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