When she began uploading music online in 2017, Tate McRae’s signature asset became her technical dance skills – which soon defined her in a crowded landscape. Even within the whirlpool of social media, the Calgary native stood out: at age 13, she came in third place on the reality competition series, So You Think You Can Dance; half a decade later, she began initiating her ascent towards the mainstream with zippy, radio-ready songs that contended with the friction between vulnerability and her uber-confident artist persona.
Yet at some point on the journey to her 2022 major label debut ‘I Used To Think I Could Fly’, McRae’s gleaming pop sound slipped into autopilot. That record showed flashes of brilliance – lead single ‘She’s All I Wanna Be’ was revered for its emotional honesty, and quickly scaled the charts thanks to its ubiquity on TikTok – but otherwise felt uninspired. Its tracks were largely safe in their artistic choices, glossy and pleasant but not especially charismatic.
A bid for the big leagues, follow-up ‘Think Later’ is somewhat remarkable for its evolutions in McRae’s delivery and attitude. Her recent global hit, ‘Greedy’ – which remained atop the Spotify Viral 50 throughout the majority of November – has everything: real confidence, the trap-speckled beats of Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U Next’ era and gymnastic melodies. The track also interpolates Nelly Furtado’s ‘Promiscuous’ – a flourish that would thrill any enthusiastic pop fan.
‘Think Later’ continues to position McRae as a much more versatile prospect. ‘Cut My Hair’ ventures into a rockier sound, a completely novel mode for the 20-year-old, and shares the energy of standout ‘Exes’. On the latter, backed by haunting laughter, McRae sends shots in every direction (“I don’t mean to be cold, but that’s how I get all my pride”) with the self-assurance of a young star currently holding court in the Gen Z pop arena.
These 14 tracks don’t roll along without any hiccups, however. As evidenced on the palatable ‘Messier’ or ‘Stay Done’, the middle section often lacks the spiky melodrama of the big, all-guns-blazing singles. The title track is a perfectly fine, if forgettable ballad, with a deep husk to McRae’s voice that will hopefully continue to grow in depth and power.
McRae is evidently still wrestling with her ambitions. ‘Think Later’, however, contains enough intrigue to suggest that this is the work of an artist finally honing their identity, dancing and sparkling all the way.
Release date: December 8
Record label: RCA Records
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