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Raye - My 21st Century Blues (Album Review)

Wednesday, 08 February 2023 Written by Jacob Brookman

‘My 21st Century Blues’ is the debut album from London-born singer songwriter Raye, and it arrives pretty well formed after a bumpy journey. Signed by major label Polydor at 17, she became a frequent featured artist on dance tracks before acrimoniously parting with the label in 2021, claiming that the company had been delaying the release of her album. The result is a record of diverse pop sounds, full of energy and invention, that fires a few shots back at her former colleagues.

The recent smash hit Escapism is the standout here. A swaggering pop track featuring American singer 070 Shake, it’s a party song with fantastic lyrics: “Just a heart broke bitch, high heels, six inch [...] I don’t trust any of these bitches I’m with / In the back of a taxi, sniffin’ cocaine.” It works as a hedonistic precursor to some kind of spiritual awakening, like the song was written just before Dua Lipa’s New Rules.

Elsewhere, Raye’s sinister paean to marujuana, Mary Jane, is another memorable cut. A languorous, withdrawn track based around a snarling guitar riff, the singing recalls Amy Winehouse, and there is something of the baroque in the lyrics too. “You hold me better than any man did,” she sings of the chemical hug. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it's compelling listening.

So if the album is this good, how come her label sat on her work for so long? Well, it’s possible that the previous iterations of this album actually weren’t as good, and that the catalyst of the split has driven Raye to produce more powerful pop music with more interesting storytelling.

It’s also possible that the delay was down to scheduling—major labels often live or die on the tentpole releases of their biggest artists. Up-and-comers like Raye are treated more like spread bets, gobbled up by the dozen to stop the competition getting them, and as such album releases have to fit into schedules set by strategists.

Whatever the reason, it surely cannot be down to the pure talent of the artist. Actually, the fact that Polydor kept her on for seven years without releasing an album is a vote of confidence of sorts. Sometimes parting company with an employer is the best thing that can happen for your career.

Raye Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat March 04 2023 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre
Sun March 05 2023 - BELFAST Limelight
Tue March 07 2023 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Wed March 08 2023 - LONDON Roundhouse
Wed November 29 2023 - BRIDLINGTON Bridlington Spa
Thu November 30 2023 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Fri December 01 2023 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE NX
Sat December 02 2023 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Tue December 05 2023 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Wed December 06 2023 - LONDON Venue To Be Announced
Thu December 07 2023 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol

Compare & Buy Raye Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


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