Addison Rae may have originally come to fame as TikTok’s occasionally cringey dancing queen, but to a cohort of extremely online Gen Z stans, post-irony Twitter users, general bop aficionados, and even Bushwick scenesters she could be so much: the next great savior of pop music. See, Rae’s discarded demos have floated around the internet for years now, garnering something of an unlikely cult following amongst those in the know. This Friday, it seems they’ll officially get a proper streaming debut.
Fans noticed that the social media star’s leaked demos had been quietly removed from YouTube, and on Monday, August 14th, Rae—who has been signed with Warner Records—posted to her channels “dug up a few of the leaks from the lost album,” noting that “AR” will be out on August 18th.
The 22-year-old influencer is currently best known for being one of the bubblegum breakouts of the pandemic-era TikTok wave—being named by Forbes as the top-earning creator on the app in August 2020. The Louisiana-native, who has been compared to her fellow Bayou State sensation Britney Spears, grew up competing in dance competitions across the country before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her TikTok career. It certainly paid off, quickly launching the then-teen into the stratosphere of hanging out with Kardashians and getting papped for her street style.
Her quick rise wasn’t without backlash, of course, including a much-maligned appearance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, during which she performed the TikTok dances that made her famous without crediting the (often Black) creators who invented them. But, perhaps wisely, Rae has backed away from making TikToks, and has instead concentrated on building the framework of a genuine acting career (she’ll next appear alongside Ryan Reynolds, Jason Momoa, and Aubrey Plaza in Animal Friends). She also has been working on music.
Her first official foray came in March of 2018, when she dropped her first (and only official) single, “Obsessed.” The “delightfully cocky, monotone, Selena Gomez-adjacent breathy pop bop,” as writer Bradley Stern described it, was initially met with what else but skepticism. “Some people don’t like the track, some people don’t like the lyrics. Some people didn’t like that it was me singing it!” Rae gamely told Youtuber Zach Sang at the time. “It’s nothing to take too heart to heart, because I mean, people only think of me what they want to, and that’s just how I’ve kind of accepted that,” she continued. “But I do know that the people that do enjoy it, that makes me super excited too. Because there are a lot of people that love it and support me.”
One such early support was Charli XCX—who seems to have confirmed her rumored involvement with the record, resharing Rae’s announcement posts and calling Rae’s album a “cult classic” (Shygirl, the British rapper and fashion set favorite, is also a fan). And while any time an influencer tries to dip their toes into creating something more substantial, there’s inevitable backlash, with Rae, there’s an excitement bordering on well, obsession, that surrounds her too, and it’s not (completely) ironic. Much of that devotion stems from the mythologized “lost tracks” that Rae has brought back for this release.
The undeniably catchy “I Got It Bad,” first released in the summer of 2021, started to turn the tides in Rae’s favor. Then, there was the leak of a snippet of Rae reportedly covering “Nothing On (But the Radio),” a demo initially co-written and recorded (but never officially released) by none other than Lady Gaga herself. (When asked by paparazzi if the vocals are the track are indeed hers, she simply responded, “It is.”) As unbothered as Rae appears, the fervor around her has only grown, and slowly more “lost” tracks leaked onto the internet, including but not limited to: “2 Die 4,” “U Had It Coming,” “Could Have. Been U,” “Love Hate Miss,” “Chords That Cry,” and “Mess Over U.”
In July of 2021, Rae told Variety that she was working on a four-track EP that included collaborations with the “Obsessed” songwriters and producers, including major pop heavy-hitters like Sarah Hudson, Madison Love, Tia Scola, Leland, Benny Blanco and Blake Slatkin. And while the poptimism bubble has far from burst—and the on-going Sophie, A.G. Cook-style hyper pop influence in music has made its way to massive projects like Beyoncé’s Renaissance—there’s still an extra edge to the brewing Rae-assaince. Maybe it’s her admiration for beloved producer Arca, or her nonchalant attitude under the watchful eyes of millions—or could it be the leg warmers with kitten heels? There’s something refreshingly unexpected in the universe of Addison Rae.