Tate McRae – I used to think I could fly

RCA Records

Release Date: May 27th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Tate McRae– I used to think I could fly (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. ?
  2. don’t come back
  3. i’m so gone
  4. what would you do?
  5. chaotic
  6. hate myself
  7. what’s your problem?
  8. she’s all I wanna be
  9. boy x
  10. you’re so cool
  11. feel like s**t
  12. go away
  13. i still say goodnight

Throughout the history of this site, both Jon and I tried to expand my musical palate beyond which I guess I previously would consider to be music I would never listen to. I mean it wasn’t our intention to review only Christian content… but for the better part of 5 years (2014-2019), that’s what we did. It wasn’t because all other genres were ‘bad’; it’s just that Jon and I weren’t familiar with them. In the past, I previously thought I would never listen to country music, let along review any songs from that genre… but look at us now. We’ve reviewed tons and tons of country music throughout the past few years. Same with pop artists like Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin BieberTaylor Swift (well, she’s country as well!), Little MixSelena GomezDua LipaSabrina CarpenterShawn MendesHailee Steinfeld and Demi Lovato to name a few. I previously thought mainstream pop was a genre where nothing good can come from it, but now I don’t believe that for a second- there are some good pop artists, and you need to know where to look. Last year around this time I reviewed Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR, even though the project wasn’t in my ‘preferred’ genre; and I found that even in that God spoke and provided inspiration and encouragement. And so… I reckon it’s that time again. To dive back into the realms of pop… and briefly touch upon ‘the next Olivia Rodrigo’. Yep, it’s time to check out Tate McRae’s debut album I used to think I could fly, which released this past month.

I’ve always been obsessed with the concept of flying. It correlates back to the message of when you’re younger, how nothing seems impossible. And no kid seems to have a fear or an insecurity of what real life is like. And I think it’s really shocking when you grow up and you realize…the harsh reality of growing up. For me, I’ve been a pretty fearless person, but for the first time I’ve experienced a lot of self-doubt. I had a big identity crisis, and this was in the middle of writing my album. It was the first time I questioned my worth, and I think that happens when you get older. The people around you start to influence how you think about things and how you live your life. So I wanted to represent that in my songs, about an 18-year-old who got smacked in the face of reality for the first time.

Again… is reviewing Tate’s debut album necessary? When probably this site is the only ‘Christian’ site reviewing the project? I’ll rephrase this question from last year where I posed it in my review of Sour: why oh why, am I diving deep into this artist where other Christian websites aren’t? Is it necessary? And thus… here’s my reply: After hearing Tate’s songs “you broke me first” and others recently that have blown up- and seeing just how similar she is to Olivia- both in sound and lyrics…  well let me just say that I just knew in my heart of hearts at that moment that I would review Tate’s debut album when it released. Because don’t we all need a different perspective from time to time- and don’t I owe it to all of the young Christians reading Christian websites yet still being exposed to mainstream media, to write down my thoughts on one of the most popular artists this generation has seen?

To be fair, Tate isn’t as popular as Olivia. I mean you can view Olivia’s Wikipedia page here (and her discography page here!) and Tate’s here; and then you can see that Tate has a while to go to catch up to Olivia. And I know, Wikipedia isn’t the best barometer when measuring someone’s present and future success. But Tate seems to be on her way to becoming a star. We recently posted a review of Avril Lavigne’s Let Go: 20th Anniversary Edition; and I reckon it’s ironic and fitting that I voice me thoughts of Tate’s debut album after Jon posted his review about Avril. Because Tate is surely following in Avril’s footsteps (maybe more in the lyrical sense than musically!), even if she doesn’t know it; and more authentic and vulnerable pop/punk and honest material… well that’s definitely a good thing, am I right? Tate’s songs aren’t instantly recognisable, and she’s only 18; but the way things are going, she is bound to be famous and inspiring to young women. And so, isn’t it my duty to check out this album to see if there’s even a shred of inspiring material lyrically here? Shouldn’t I be the first to say ‘yes, this is good to consume, or no this isn’t?’

It was very stressful, I’m not gonna lie. I’m one of the most indecisive people on the planet, so I feel like I wrote hundreds of songs. Deciding which ones were actually gonna make the cut was so brutal for me. I swear to God, my team was gonna chop my head off because I was changing my mind every two seconds. I’m so nervous, I just have no idea how people are gonna receive it. And I think it’s crazy when something so vulnerable and personal gets released into the world because it’s out of your hands. It belongs to the listeners now and that’s really terrifying but exciting.

There’s this one song called “Hate Myself” that was really hard to write. As a songwriter, you can make your own perspective and you have all the liberty to describe scenarios however you want, which is crazy. In this situation, it was hard because it was the first time that I wrote about immense guilt. It’s a weird feeling to talk about because the whole time I had like a massive pit in my stomach.

I remember it happened right after I went through a breakup and my friend called me and he was like, “Come over right now. Like, you have to talk about this.” I was standing at the mic stand sobbing. I was crying as I was recording the song and you can hear my voice crack. I was crying because it was so real. It hit so close to home at the time and it was just brutal, it was really hard.

Coming into this album, I had to shed my preconceptions of angsty pop music. I mean, even though I listened to and reviewed SOUR; I didn’t really love the genre and had no inkling of reviewing another pure pop album in that vein any time soon. Olivia Rodrigo challenged my notion and viewpoint of pop music, but the latter half of the year of 2021 saw me reverting to reviewing what I knew. But I used to think I could fly, though still not in my own ‘preferred genre’ (leave it to CCM and country to be genres I instantly gravitate to!), nonetheless is honest, vulnerable, authentic, and somewhat inspiring? Could I make more of an effort to review mainstream pop released following listening to and reviewing this album? Maybe, maybe. Album opener “?” is a spoken word 16 second piece, where Tate contemplates about the innocence of her youth. She reminds us all, that at times during her formative years, she thought she was invincible. And while this ‘track’ is only 16 seconds, the lamentation and the deep introspective atmosphere here sets the tone for this album; and as we are reminded that this track provides context and gives us a glimpse into Tate’s mind, we are also encouraged to hold loosely to the secondary issues we have believed in our lives… because as we grow up these views can change. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, but a thing nonetheless.

Following on from “?” is the savage and brutal takedown of a toxic relationship in “don’t come back”. In fact, most if not all of these songs are teenage angst relationship style melodies; however all have relevant and relatable lyrics for people of all ages and from all walks of life. “don’t come back” speaks about a boy who is bored with Tate, and as Tate sings that if he’s going to lie to her, to not come back; we are also subtly encouraged to make changes in our lives and to rid ourselves of negative people- the people in our lives who bring us down. It’s a song about romantic relationships, but a song like this extends past romantic relationships and into even platonic friendships that are one-sided. “I’m so gone”, lyrically in a similar vein to “don’t come back”, speaks about Tate viciously and severely berating an ex; and though it isn’t encouraged to hate on someone just because they’ve wronged you, the song does speak about hurt and not forgiving the other person straight away. You may never get to a place where you can forgive someone for the wrongs they’ve done to you, and that’s ok. But what this song is saying is that in the immediate aftermath of a breakup- romantic relationship or platonic friendship; it’s ok to feel angry and wish hurt on the other person. We all feel angry and upset, but it’s what we actively do afterwards that is a measure of what kind of a person we are. “what would you do?”, a powerful and empowering anthem directed to the person in the relationship who is seemingly not putting in the work, telling them that they may feel lost without you if you leave and don’t come back; is a track where Tate encourages us all to make the hard choices and leave a relationship or friendship if it isn’t working out… and yet it also is a track and subtly and low-key encourages the two parties to communicate and be honest about the long-term intentions and goals out of the relationship.

“chaotic”, a heartbreaking and emotional piano ballad, is probably the most relatable and also probably the most thought-provoking song on the entire album, as Tate describes real adult problems and speaks about growing up and life’s ups and downs- something all of us can identify with. “hate myself”, similarly, speaks about a topic broader than relationships- as Tate confidently and vulnerably highlights her vices and imperfections, and this time she berates and admonishes herself. It’s a song that is so self-depreciating, however the topic at hand of not feeling worthy or even loved reminds us all that we aren’t alone in feeling like we’re hopeless and useless, and that if we call on Jesus, He can remind us that we’re perfect and loved in His eyes. “what’s your problem?”, a continuation from “hate myself” speaks about the real reason Tate feels depressed and self-loathing- it’s all about a guy who manipulated her- and though this song can seem larger than life; it does remind us that we all have people in our lives that we need to have that conversation with, to tell them the cold hard truth that they are bringing us down. In some ways, “what’s your problem?” is for all of the haters and is as direct as it is callous because in some ways, being direct and callous is the only way for the person’s eyes to be opened and aware of all the damage they’ve caused. This track isn’t comfortable… but it is needed as a catalyst for change in our lives and maybe the lives of others.

“she’s all I wanna be”, a hard-hitting, no-nonsense anthem, delves deep into the concept of comparison and self-worth, as Tate passionately and powerfully sings about feeling overwhelmed and wanting what other people have. As Tate emphatically and unequivocally delves into the theme of wanting what we can’t have, this melody inspires us to learn to be content in our current situation and in the current season; while “boy x” once again speaks about unhealthy relationships- Tate encourages young girls to be unafraid in their singleness, and lays a challenge for guys to be chivalrous and decent and kind, and definitely not like ‘boy x’ in the song. “you’re so cool”, with a similar theme to “what would you do?”, has Tate lamenting over a guy friend or a boyfriend ditching her because he became ‘cool’ in high school (and I guess this song is applicable to people of all ages in that someone could ditch you the moment they seem to be more popular than you!); while the expletive-laden “feel like s**t”, a piano led slow ballad, delves into feeling down and feeling sad, all because you put your entire being into a relationship that you have realised has gone nowhere. It’s a song that opens our eyes to the realities that some people may not care for us in the same way that we do them; and as such, this song reminds us that the only ones we can ever trust are God and our family.

With the lyrical topic of “go away” being about not being entirely over an ex, and feeling the stresses of mental health and feeling the pressures of life’s ups and downs; this melody reminds us that feelings of isolation, anxiety and pain are common in young people today. This song is a reminder that we all can have days like this- days like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. However, this melody reminds me that as a Christian, I can turn to Jesus to ask for help. This melody isn’t about Jesus, but I hope and pray that He uses it to draw people closer to Himself. I used to think I could fly then ends with the heartbreaking and emotional piano ballad “I still say goodnight”, where Tate sings about hanging onto any semblance of the relationship- just because it’s comfortable even if it isn’t healthy.

I think the biggest issue right now is… everyone is so embarrassed and nervous to put things out because they think it’s gonna be weird or they’re worried about how other people are gonna think of them. I think that’s the most lame thing ever because the internet is so toxic. If you love something and you’re passionate about it, the coolest thing you can do is put yourself out there and let other people appreciate what you love. A lot of people write all these songs or create all this art and then they just get so scared to put it out because of how others are gonna react. Yeah, you’re putting yourself out there for people to judge you, but that’s what’s gonna happen — you could also get the most incredible response too or make a career out of it. I think it’s so sad that people are judgy about things being “cringe” or things being embarrassing because nothing should be embarrassing if you really love it and it makes you happy.

With Tate McRae being an artist who has so far written and sung about romantic relationships (as well as a few songs about mental health and the pressures of life in the spotlight… as well as just teenage angst in general!), I used to think I could fly seems to be an album that resonates with all of us, or even if it doesn’t, it probably will resonate with all of us at some point in our lives. On some level, I firmly believe that it is a testament to Tate’s songwriting ability, because this album does resonate with me (more songs than others), as we are met with a popular, talented, young woman, trying to find her way in the music industry in the age of digital content being available at a click of a finger. For all of the rest of you, you may not connect with Tate’s debut album, and that’s ok. But let me say that this is one of the most heartfelt and thought-provoking albums of the year. It’s not my favourite (because of the overt and continuous explicit language throughout this album!) and the constant singing about her ex makes this album maybe too specific a niche topic; but Tate sure has delivered a powerful and high-quality debut album, as she is showing us maturity beyond her 18 years. Sure, there are some songs recorded with sarcasm and hurt as the thematic backbone; but this is a release not to be missed. Maybe you don’t listen to these songs all in one sitting…. Because they are a handful. Yet nonetheless, one listen to this album should be enough to form your own opinion, am I right? And what do all of you reckon? Who thinks I should review more pop songs and pop albums in general and talk deeply about them? Well done Tate, I can’t wait to hear what is next! Maybe more inspirational and encouraging songs and not just revenge/angst tracks?

3 songs to listen to: what would you do?, hate myself, she’s all I wanna be

Score: 4/5

RIYL: Demi Lovato, Olivia Rodrigo, Selena Gomez, Jessie J, Lady Gaga, Dua Lipa, Ava Max, P!NK

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