Raye, the famous British singer-songwriter, released her debut album, “My 21st Century Blues,” via Human Re Sources Independently today (on February 3, 2023).
The album marks Raye’s first endeavor since leaving Polydor Records in 2021. It received mostly positive reviews from critics and was co-written mainly by Raye, with production handled by Mike Sabbath, her, Punctual, BloodPop, and Di Genius. Mahalia and 070 Shake make appearances on the record.
Raye’s issues with addiction, insecurity, body dysmorphia, and sexual assault are the subjects the album covers lyrically. The tracks “Hard Out Here,” “Escapism,” with 070 Shake, “Black Mascara,” “The Thrill Is Gone,” and “Ice Cream Man” served as its backbone. In addition to reaching the top 10 in 22 other music markets, “Escapism” peaked at number one in the UK in January 2023.
Listen to the song “Escapism” from the album My 21st Century Blues” below.
The opening track of Raye’s debut album has a compere introducing the 25-year-old artist as the main attraction. It’s not the first time an artist has begun an album in that manner. However, it’s still shockingly effective: Raye’s forthright British accent contrasts thrillingly with the MC’s American celebrity voice as she tells a clueless partner where to get off.
Raye exudes confidence, as she should. Escapism, a No. 1 hit that was also terrific, precedes My 21st Century Blues. It is catchy but episodic, with booming percussion giving way to sections of beatless strings, and its sung-spoken lyrics turn a night out on the town into a flurry of funny asides.
Escapism came about after a seven-year relationship with her major label ended in divorce. That was such a negative experience that it makes you wonder if the ex in Oscar Winning Tears who “convinced me with bullshit” is a natural person or just a way of describing her experience with the music business.
A record deal, a spot on the “Sound of… list” by BBC, and a succession of hit singles like Check, Decline, and Cigarette all helped launch Raye’s career very well. She ruled pop for a few years after that and amassed numerous gold, silver, and platinum records.
She posted a charged Instagram live video where she performed “pure bangers” that she claimed Polydor wouldn’t let her share. Still, in 2021 she complained on social media about her label’s unwillingness to allow her to release an album after seven years. Soon after, they ceased working together. She founded her very own label. She next moved to Number 1.
It’s unclear if her complaint stemmed from her ex-label seeking to restrict the scope or content of her work or if they refused to release this record. If the latter, their behavior was not only patronizing but also really perplexing. My 21st Century Blues explodes into the scene, bombarding you with amazing song after fantastic song.
However, the significant label employee who followed Escapism’s march up the charts with increasing terror may find solace because Raye doesn’t have enough gory content to fill a 40-minute album. (Eventually, she may have felt obligated to offer colleagues a chance to kick them in the behind, like Jackie Fufkin by Spinal Tap).
The sped-up vocal sample on Environmental Anxiety comes perilously near to evoking the work of Crazy Frog, but there is nothing overtly terrible. However, your interest starts to wane throughout the second half, which is more directly pop-focused.
The gospel choir’s presence doesn’t make the song Buss It Down feel less formulaic; it might make it worse because pop producers’ attentions have kept church choirs busy in recent years. Similarly, the Auto-Tuned triplet cadence of Five Star Hotels has a whiff of more of the same.
Despite its flaws, Raye’s debut contains enough potential hit singles with attitude and character to spare—to assure that her current triumph is more than just a sentimental vote or a passing fad. And that appears to be the most significant aspect of My 21st Century Blues.