“I believe artists rise to the surface at their own weird time,” UK artist RAYE shared with The Orchard’s New York staff during a Q&A in November 2022. “It might be when I’m dead. It might be after this album. It might be after my fourth or fifth album,” she continues. “The point is that it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is the quality of the material that I’m releasing. The fact that I believe in it and that with each record, I’m getting better and better each time.”
The humble part of RAYE’s words is that only a few short weeks later, before her debut album My 21st Century Blues. was even released, she’d rise to that surface. By the end of 2022, RAYE was inescapable thanks to her single “Escapism. (feat. 070 Shake).” The song connected with millions of TikTok users, who could be seen lip-syncing the snappy and spiteful lyrics of the first verse: “The man that I love sat me down last night / And he told me that it’s over, dumb decision.” The hard-hitting, dance-rap fusion sees the protagonist on a blurry, intoxicated night out. Her “simple mission” for the evening? Forget everything and escape heartbreak for a night.
Before joining The Orchard and Human Re Sources in Spring 2022, RAYE was trapped in a record label deal from which she felt creatively restricted. “I became a voice for dance music only,” she says at The Orchard Q&A. “I became a ‘Pop Product.’ There was a formula and it was all fake. I had huge dreams of being an artist, being a lyricist that changed the face of music. And here I was producing music that meant nothing. It contributed nothing.”
Throughout her new record, RAYE explores numerous topics and genres – all of which encompass RAYE’s many complex layers. From the anxiety-inducing spiral of “Escapism,” to the uplifting gospel-influenced “Buss It Down,” to the hyperpop tendencies in “Environmental Anxiety,” RAYE proves she’s anything but a one-trick pony. And shame on those that held her back before (for more context, listen to “Hard Out Here”).
“It’s been tricky in the hardest of times, knowing what I’m capable of and never being able to honestly express it,” she says. But by choosing independence, RAYE took back her voice and career. For the first time, she was able to record and release music that was authentically RAYE. And suffice to say that “real RAYE” resonated with audiences, greatly.
“Escapism.” ranked in the Top 5 Songs charts in seven countries, including #1 in the UK and Ireland. It’s reached Platinum status in two countries and Gold status in six. It was the #10 Most-Shazamed song in the United States and has grossed over 265 million streams to-date.
My 21st Century Blues. ranked #1 on Spotify’s Debut Global Albums Chart. It debuted #2 in the UK, #13 in Ireland, #16 in Norway, #30 in Netherlands, #34 in Germany, 58 in the USA, and #97 in France. She received 50 Spotify New Music playlist covers, 54 Apple New Music Daily covers, and was named Pop Album of the Week on Deezer. She’s been praised by publications like The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian.
Yet despite the public praise and metric accolades, RAYE would be the first to say that her greatest achievement is producing an authentic record. A body of work that she can finally be proud to stamp her name on. “In this new chapter of my life, where honesty and candidness are such a priority, people can get a sense of finally realizing who I am.”
Listen to My 21st Century Blues. out everywhere now via Human Re Sources / The Orchard. Catch RAYE on tour throughout the year and keep up on with her on socials: Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook.