Tate McRae, a singer who became popular through YouTube and TikTok, released her highly anticipated debut album, ”I Used to Think I Could Fly,” on Friday, May 27.
This album suits McRae perfectly as it shows her versatility as an artist and her ability to portray the emotions surrounding love and heartbreak. While the theme of the album isn’t very original, McRae brings a fresh take and a new sound to the trope.
Get ready to sing along, scream a little and cry a whole lot.
“She’s All I Wanna Be” is the most marketable, traditional pop song on the album. McRae released it as a single on Feb. 4, and it reached 44 on the Billboard Hot 100. This is the song that will get stuck in your head, but you’ll find you don’t really mind (or at least I don’t).
Almost like a more upbeat “Jealousy, Jealousy” for any fans of Olivia Rodrigo, the song is about the habit of comparing oneself to others.
“She’s got everything that I don’t have / And she’s all I wanna be / All I wanna be so bad,” McRae sings.
While it is not the strongest song on the album, it holds its own and will probably continue to be the most popular and enduring.
“Chaotic” is arguably the most vulnerable track of the album. Its stripped-back acoustic feel lets McRae’s vocals shine through.
“I have this paralyzing fear that I’ll maybe go nowhere / But God forbid me ever admitting I could be scared,” McRae sings.
The song portrays the struggles of growing up, capturing the uncertainty, sadness and loneliness of not quite being an adult but not being a kid either. I find it to be the strongest vocal performance of the album as well. If you’re not in tears mourning your youth by the end of the song, you’re doing something wrong.
I’m surprised McRae never chose to release “Boy X” as a single, but I’m also grateful because I got to listen to it without knowing what to expect. This song is an emotional sucker punch. This track is about someone who was pretty guarded when it comes to love, but as soon as they let their guard down, they had their heart broken. The sound of the track is calming and nostalgic, but there’s also an overarching feeling of sadness. “Boy X” is definitely the hidden gem of this album.
An emotional ballad that deserves an honorable mention for pulling on my heartstrings is “Go Away.”
“Go Away” is a tale of unrequited love, with hauntingly heartbreaking lyrics like “Now I don’t think I’m okay / You never go away” and “Was driving and I thought that I saw you and I almost crashed / The sad part is if the roles were reversed you woulda drove right past.” On top of the intense feelings conveyed in this song, it is a strong vocal performance by McRae and the instrumentals truly highlight that.
McRae also nails the transition from sadness to anger over a breakup. The true turning point is “What’s Your Problem.” This song has its emotional moments, but overall McRae is starting to become more accusatory.
“What’s your problem? / You think that you’re a God,” McRae sings.
Even the sound feels like a transition, as it walks the line between a slower ballad and an upbeat pop song.
The two songs with the most unadulterated anger to them are “I’m So Gone” and “You’re So Cool.” These songs are a much-needed break from all the sad emotions of this album. They surprised me because I did not think McRae had an edgier side.
“I’m So Gone” leaves nothing left unsaid, with great lines like “Never left your dad’s basement / Now you’re mad that I made it” and “You promised that the two of us were fate / Isn’t it funny how you said that after pushing me away?” Similarly, “You’re So Cool” is an expletive-laced attack on someone whose ego is entirely too inflated. It’s a great song for releasing the stress caused by anyone remotely annoying in your life.
However, two songs didn’t quite hit the mark for me. In their attempts to show off McRae’s varied talents, “Don’t Come Back” and “I Still Say Goodnight” feel a little misplaced on this album. “Don’t Come Back,” an interpolation of Nelly’s “Ride wit Me,” borrows too heavily from its inspiration and ends up sounding like a cheapened remake. McRae shines best with her original material and that is how she has made a name for herself in this industry, so this song does not suit her skillset.
Another track that feels unnecessary is “I Still Say Goodnight.” This song is meant to close out the album, so I was expecting it to convey a certain message or feeling that encompasses the whole album. Granted, it is a difficult task for such a complex range of songs, but “I Still Say Goodnight” ends up feeling redundant next to tracks like “Chaotic” and “Boy X.” The emotional component of the song never really lands (pun intended).
While McRae has produced an impressive album with many strong tracks that showcase her talent and flexibility, she needs to be more grounded if she wants to soar to new heights. Her next album should have a bit more of a cohesive genre and message while still highlighting her strong songwriting abilities.