By Tomás Mier
TikTok quickly went from the app where Leah Kate’s career first blew up to the musician’s “worst nightmare” amid her current tour with Chase Atlantic. During the pandemic, the pop-punk singer — responsible for breakup bops “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Fuck Up This Friendship ” — got her big break on the video sharing app, where she boasts 600,000 followers and has nearly 22 million likes across her videos. But overnight this summer, the posts about her on the app turned negative.
Just a few shows into the tour, Kate began going viral on Titkok Chase Atlantic fans began posting videos of the crowd trolling her during the show, specifically during her performance of her nursery rhyme satire “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bitch.” The videos — some with nearly 10 million — captured concertgoers holding up their phones in the air as if they were recording her, but a close look revealed they were simply displaying the calculator app on their screens. Others played games like Subway Surfers and Candy Crush or held up the words “Get out of here” or “I didn’t pay for this BS” on their phones.
“It was my worst nightmare for a second,” Kate tells Rolling Stone. “When you go on the internet, it can feel like the whole world.”
But after enduring the hate for nearly two weeks, she had a realization backstage: “You can either let these haters bring you down and be sad about it, or you can get in on the joke, grow some thick skin, and take your power back.”
She spoke to her production team that day and decided to use the joke to her advantage. During her song “F U Anthem,” Kate changed the background screen from her logo to the Subway Surfers game. She also held up a calculator as she sang, “All of your fake ass friends who think they’re rockstars/This is my fuck you anthem.”
Replying to @superspicyx she was holding up a calculator and if u notice the screen in the background is playing subway surfers #leah #leahkate #chaseatlantic #coldnightstour
♬ original sound – chase lover (aka mel<3)
She was finally in on the joke, and she’s now “taken control of the narrative.”
“I’ve taken the power back,” she says. “I’m in on this game. Now I get so excited to go on. I’m like, ‘Who’s gonna make the video tonight?’ Let’s go!”
“I hope I make eye contact with someone trying to do it. It completely fuels me,” she adds. “I’m not scared anymore.”
Now with an entirely new outlook on the situation, she’s channeling that same “If you’re gonna mess with me, fuck you” energy she puts into her music into her stage presence as she continues her tour.
But Kate isn’t alone. Her situation echoes the experience of several performers as of late — especially those who open for larger artists. Just last week, Kid Cudi walked off stage after the crowd began throwing water bottles and projectiles onstage while he was performing at Rolling Loud after replacing Kanye West on the lineup. And last year, Rico Nasty was booed by fans of Playboi Carti while she opened his show.
“I dead ass need at least two hours out of each day to just cry,” Rico wrote in now-deleted tweets from the time. “I wish I was dead just as much as y’all do trust me.” (The tweets from Rico led artists like Megan Thee Stallion, City Girls’ JT, and Juicy J to tweet their support for Rico. Playboi stayed silent.)
Charlie Puth even called the disrespect against artists a growing trend. “I’m seeing a disturbing new trend of concertgoers blatantly disrespecting performers on stage,” he wrote. “Please realize it’s not the easiest being that vulnerable in front of thousands of people, only to have a bunch shit thrown at you in return. You wouldn’t want that happening to you…”
I’m seeing a disturbing new trend of concertgoers blatantly disrespecting performers on stage. Please realize it’s not the easiest being that vulernable in front of thousands of people, only to have a bunch shit thrown at you in return. You wouldn’t want that happening to you…
— Charlie Puth (@charlieputh) July 24, 2022
Kate says it’s something that she thinks “definitely needs to be addressed by more artists,” though she doesn’t hold a grudge against Chase Atlantic’s fans and even said she’s thankful for the group’s support on tour.
Although the band declined to comment to Rolling Stone, Chase Atlantic asked their fans to “not bully anyone online or at shows” last month on Twitter. Meanwhile, guitarist Christian Anthony wrote, “Bullying people is fucking lame guys… And if I see anyone on my timeline bullying our opener you will be unfollowed.”
Using the troll hate as fuel for her performances, Kate knows the viral videos are inevitably leading people to check out her music and follow her on TikTok. Since the start of the tour, her TikTok following increased by 12 percent, and her videos have amassed more than 20 million views just in the last month, according to her management team.
The moment has also created a new bond between Kate and her fans. At a recent show, a group of girls in the front row held up calculators on their phones — but instead of numbers on the screen, the equation part of the calculator read, “WE LOVE YOU.”
“I’ve gained my power back. And I’m in such a stronger place because of this,” she says. “I know it’s crazy because it’s only been three weeks. But I feel like with what’s happened to me emotionally, I’m truly coming out of this tour as a new person.”
“I really don’t feel bothered by it anymore,” she says. “At this point, I’m laughing at it now.”
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