Billboard Canada's Breakthrough Artists of 2023: The Beaches
After ten years building a following in the Canadian rock realm, the Toronto quartet had hit their ceiling. This year, a new sound and a TikTok clip helped them break through it.
It's been a good year for Canadian artists breaking through on the charts. To celebrate, Billboard Canada is taking a look at a handful of musicians who made their mark this year. Read them all here.
The Beaches have been playing together since 2013 — longer, for three of the four members — but have struggled to build a profile beyond their home country. This year, a new sound and a viral TikTok video helped the Toronto band break through.
Prior to 2023, you might have heard The Beaches on Canadian rock radio, or maybe you remember when they opened for The Rolling Stones at their Oro-Medonte, Ontario performance in 2019. This year, though, you’re likely to associate them with a ubiquitous TikTok. Lead singer Jordan Miller stands in a vocal booth, headphones on, and sings to a backing track. “Done being the sad girl / I’m done dating rockstars / from now on only actors / tall boys in the Raptors,” she intones atop a sleek descending guitar line and punchy drums.
That clip has 3.2 million views. It catapulted them into a new phase of their career this year, helping them break out of the Canadian market and into a whole new world. The song Miller sings is “Blame Brett,” off of their 2023 album Blame My Ex. Following the clip, which went viral in May, “Blame Brett” hit the Alternative Airplay chart this fall, peaking at No. 21. It was their first time on the U.S. Billboard charts.
DONT’T BLAME ME BLAME BRETT #breakupsong #blamemyex #indiemusic #girlband #recording #songwriting
The band, which consists of Miller, her sister and guitarist/vocalist Kylie Miller, guitarist Leandra Earl, and Eliza Enman-McDaniel on drums, have been working towards this moment for the last decade. They’re already an established group in Canada, with two Junos to their name, including the 2018 Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year. But to break through on home turf is one thing — taking on the world is another.
They won that 2018 Award following the release of their debut album, Late Show. Produced by Metric’s Emily Haines, that album has the feel of a 2000s alt-rock record, harsh and hissing. The heavier sound helped The Beaches become mainstays on Canadian radio and build a fanbase made up mostly of older Canadian rock enthusiasts, they tell The Line of Best Fit. “We could sell tickets to shows, but it didn’t really add up to our online presence,” Earl explains in the interview.
Late Show was released on Universal Music Canada — the band signed a development deal with Island Records straight out of high school and had been navigating the major label landscape ever since. Last year, Universal and The Beaches went their separate ways, and the band had a serious talk with their agent, who told them the next record needed to push them into new territory. They went for a new manager and a rebrand — new logo, new style, new Beaches.
They co-wrote Blame My Ex with Canadian artist and songwriter Lowell and reshaped their sound. Blame My Ex is poppier than their previous releases, with the heavy guitar tones swapped for reverb — the band cites New Order and The Cure as influences. Peppy cheers and vocal sighs punctuate the arrangements, and Miller’s voice has a different timbre — her rock and roll bravado sounds softer and, perhaps paradoxically, more powerful.
The rebrand is working: they’ve gone from playing American venues with 200 capacity to 600, and “Blame Brett” has amassed 25 million streams on Spotify alone. Fellow musical siblings The Jonas Brothers are fans, too, and invited The Beaches up onstage to perform “Blame Brett” at a November concert. Blink-182's Mark Hoppus also sang and bopped along to the song on TikTok.
The American attention is no small feat, given that Canadian artists can struggle to build their profile south of the border, a much bigger market where funding support is much less available. “Not any disrespect to Canada because we’re so grateful to have had our start there, but a lot of bands do get stuck,” the band’s Kylie Miller told Line of Best Fit. “Often people have to kind of hide the fact that they’re from Canada, go somewhere else to get big, and then be like, ‘hey, surprise, I’m Canadian!’” Enman-McDaniel added.
The Beaches’ big year indicates the continued importance of apps like TikTok to those breakout moments, and the ways in which labels — particularly major labels — might not know how to generate those moments in the current pop culture landscape. Other alternative artists like Canadians Mother Mother have also seen belated success via TikTok — the Vancouver band got a major bump when their 2008 track “Hayloft” became a popular lip-syncing soundtrack on the app, helping their 2022 follow-up, “Hayloft II,” to go gold this year.
In many ways, it’s up to artists themselves to build followings and reach audiences — there’s no handbook for how to blow up. That said, a shiny pop song like “Blame Brett,” with its catchy riffs and relatable lyrics, always helps. Trends might come and go, but the sassy break-up song is forever.