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About RAYE

When RAYE speaks of her music, she doesn’t just talk of songs but of “stories.” And the South London singer-songwriter (born Rachel Agatha Keen in 1997) has quite the knack for writing them. Nominated for the Songwriter of the Year Ivor Novello Award in 2022, RAYE first broke through in 2014 with her star-signaling self-released debut EP, Welcome to the Winter, followed by the Stormzy-featuring Second EP two years later. A stream of singles and collaborations, including with Stefflon Don, Mr Eazi, and Jax Jones, hinted at an artist who could shape-shift between musical spheres—and excel wherever she landed. But despite such successes (her name has also featured on the credits of songs by artists such as Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding, Little Mix, and John Legend), RAYE felt trapped behind the scenes. In 2021—just months after the release of her chart-topping dance-pop anthem “BED” alongside Joel Corry and David Guetta—the singer-songwriter wrote on social media that she hadn’t been “allowed” to release her debut album and that she was “sick of being slept on” by her label, an allegation that sent shockwaves through the music industry. And it was then that RAYE returned to those stories, as she came to work on her long-awaited 2023 debut LP, My 21st Century Blues, as an independent artist. On it, she explores being a young woman in music and the trauma of sexual assault and substance abuse, but also the things any woman RAYE’s age might be moved to write about: climate change, relationships ending, falling in love with someone new. “This is about me telling the stories I want to tell, in the order I want to tell them, through the sonic landscape I want to tell them,” RAYE told Apple Music at the time of the album’s release. My 21st Century Blues, she added, wasn’t made with mainstream success in mind, yet that’s exactly what it brought. After the confronting “Hard Out Here.” and the made-for-repeat-listening “Black Mascara.”, she unleashed “Escapism.” featuring 070 Shake, a viral hit on both sides of the Atlantic and the biggest song of RAYE’s up to that point. It signaled, without doubt, that her time had come. “It is just the most beautiful validation,” said RAYE. “To know that you’re right to back yourself when you feel conviction and you feel passionately about something. I made this [album] battling and figuring out freedom, and I’m so excited for the artist I get to become. This has set the tone for me.”

October 24, 1997
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