NME Radar: Breakout

Tate McRae: all-singing, all-dancing alt-pop superstar

The teenage dance/pop prodigy has already shared a stage with Justin Bieber and worked with Billie Eilish, it's little wonder the has alt-pop success now has chart success in sight.

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

Last week Tate McRae broke into the UK Top 40 with the tear-jerking ‘You Broke Me First’. The hard-hitting ballad has soundtracked hundreds of thousands of TikToks, been streamed millions of times and helped earn the Canadian artist a Best New Artist nomination at the MTV VMAs, alongside the likes of Yungblud and Doja Cat.

This isn’t Tate’s first foray into the spotlight though. An accomplished dancer, she joined Justin Bieber onstage as he brought his Purpose Tour to her hometown of Calgary, aged 13. If that wasn’t impressive enough, backstage that night she watched as her audition for US reality TV series So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation aired to over 2 million people and she eventually finished third in the series.

McRae had always been a fan of singing but it wasn’t until she broke her YouTube run of Create With Tate dance videos with the original song ‘One Day’ that she really started showing off her pop chops. That track that she “whipped up in an hour” has now racked up 33 millions views, a record deal with RCA (home of Brockhampton, no less) and set Tate McRae on a trajectory to become the newest pop idol.

We jumped on the phone with McRae to talk Billie Eilish comparisons, empowering new single ‘Don’t Be Sad’ and just how far she can take this dream.

‘You Broke Me First’ is your first UK Top 40 Single. Why do you think it’s connecting?

“It’s such a real song. Someone tried to come back in my life after leaving me with a lot of pain and damage and I decided ‘I’m not letting you back in my life, no matter how badly I want you to’. I wrote this song and it became about self-worth. I was definitely feeling empowered. Those real emotions are why people can relate to it because it’s genuine and authentic. It’s not just made up lyrics that I threw together; it’s a very personal song to me.”

Debut EP ‘All The Things I Never Said’ was full of heartbreak but the tracks you’ve released since have some confidence. Did you want to show a different side to yourself?

“My first EP was an introduction to me as an artist as I moved out of the dance world into the music industry. I feel like ‘Vicious’ and ‘You Broke Me First’ really captures my style and my voice. Both songs are very empowering. A lot of teen angst can come across really diminishing to everyone but I’ve been really trying to walk into my own sense of self-worth. ‘You Broke Me First’ really shows me figuring out who I am and being OK with that.”

What inspired your new song ‘Don’t Be Sad’?

“Telling someone who is depressed or sad ‘just don’t be sad’ is the worst thing you can do. You would never say to a person with anxiety, ‘don’t be anxious’ because it’s not going to help anything. People think you can just walk into a therapist’s office, be told ‘you’ve just got to be happy’ and that’s it, problem solved. It’s not that easy though. You can’t solve all your problems in one second and you can’t instantly change your entire mental state. What’s really cool about this song is that it’s not connected to any sort of relationship, it’s very much a personal thing. I’ve been showing off the vulnerable side of myself on YouTube with original songs for a couple years now so it feels like my entire diary is online. Sharing emotional songs don’t really seem scary anymore.”

There’s a new EP out later this year. How different is it to ‘All The Things I Never Said’?

“It’ll be full of honest songs along the line of ‘You Broke Me First and ‘Don’t Be Sad’, which I’m super stoked about. It’s definitely a step up from my last EP. It has a more of a storyline and feels way more connected. I’m still in the process of choosing songs though. I’ve been writing so much in quarantine that I keep making stuff that beats out other songs, but that’s a good problem to have. I have like, 45 songs written so it’s just about narrowing them down.”

From the moment you shared ‘One Day’, people have been saying how you’re going to be a superstar. Does that pile on the pressure?

“I just want to work as hard as I can to live up to my own expectations and everyone else’s. I guess it’s a bit of pressure but if you put your head down and work at it, you can kind of ignore those outside feelings of anxiety and stress. It’s just about indulging in your work and making sure that you’re doing the best that you can at all times.”

How do you feel about being compared to Billie Eilish?

“She’s amazing. It’s a very cool comparison and not a bad one, for sure. Her and Finneas helped write ‘Tear Myself Apart’ which was the first single I released with RCA Records and I’m such a huge fan of them both. They’re both amazing writers, it’s such a beautiful song and I’m super grateful.”

You’ve pretty much done it all. Does anything scare you?

“I’ve always dreamed of being on stage and performing for a lot of people. That’s the goal and that’s what I’m going to keep working towards. I’m a super ambitious person, I have been since I was really young, and I work for what I want. I obviously get a little nervous for some things depending on how big they are but because I’ve been competing since I was nine, I get stressed out over daily life things way more than music stuff. I get really stressed out filling up my car with gas but going on tour or releasing a new song? That’s fine.”

Tate McRae’s ‘You Broke Me First’ is out now