Artists You Should Know: RAYE Relishes in Rebirth on Debut Album “My 21st Century Blues”

Photo by Callum Walker Hutchinson

For RAYE the road to releasing her debut album culminated in a move that nearly blew up her career: leaving behind the label that had refused to allow her to drop an album despite numerous award nominations and Top 20 U.K. tracks. Though it wouldn’t take long for her decision to make a go at it as an independent artist over being stuck in a record label-imposed purgatory would pay off. Today, she’s prepping for a massive string of tour dates, one leg for her debut My 21st Century Blues, and the other with Kali Uchis.

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Across the album’s sprawling soundscapes, RAYE dazzles via breakneck shifts between gospel/blues confessionals and thrilling blends of trip-hop and dancehall. Showcasing her innate ability to contort elegantly genre into emotionally visceral and cinematic expressions of vulnerability, renewal, and cathartic rage.

Album opener “Introduction” constructs the sonic intimacy that permeates throughout the album as a live performance. But she wastes no time in digging into moments of trauma that punctuate many of the songs, from confronting the man who spiked her drink (“Oscar Winning Tears”) to her own experience with sexual violence (“Ice Cream Man”).


But the painful (though for RAYE exceptionally healing and therefore necessary) introspections don’t stop there. Tracks like “Body Dysmorphia” and “Environmental Anxiety” lean into all the ways we are weighed down by angst at seemingly all levels of our lives — from personal to global. Like on the track “Mary Jane,” which wrangles with substance abuse. The entire album is a stunningly multidimensional portrait of RAYE as a woman of color, chronicling not just her navigation of the predatory and abusive male-dominated music industry she sought to break away from, but also a lucid illustration of the world around her.

“My debut album. My ugly, complex, beautiful mosaic formed from broken pieces of glass from the last seven years of my life. This music is my medicine, my anxieties, traumas, and unfiltered thoughts. The music on this record empowered me to face my demons and has accompanied me through my bluest blues, crafted unapologetically and fearlessly with love and tears. Now I can only hope it might provide the same medicine it did for me for those who choose to listen. I can’t believe it is really happening — my first album.”

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See RAYE on tour at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on Mar. 15 and with Kali Uchis at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on May 26. View the full list of tour dates below!

Visit RAYE on their website, Twitter, and Instagram to stay updated on new releases and tour announcements.

RAYE tour

February 25 – Amsterdam, NL – Melkweg SOLD OUT
February 26 – Berlin, DEU – Frannz SOLD OUT
February 27 – Copenhagen, DK – Lilie Vega SOLD OUT
March 1 – Stockholm, SE – Debaser Strand
March 2 – Paris, FR – La Maroquinerie SOLD OUT
March 4 – Dublin, IE – Olympia Theatre SOLD OUT
March 5 – Belfast, UK – Limelight SOLD OUT
March 7 – Manchester, UK – O2 Ritz SOLD OUT
March 8 – London, UK – Roundhouse SOLD OUT
March 14 – San Francisco, CA – Popscene @ Rickshaw Stop SOLD OUT
March 15 – Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour SOLD OUT
March 17 – Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground SOLD OUT
March 19 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall SOLD OUT
March 21 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall Of Williamsburg SOLD OUT
November 18 – Paris, FR – La Cigale
November 19 – Amsterdam, NL – Melkweg
November 20 – Esch-sur-Alzette, LU – Rockhal
November 21 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
November 23 – Berlin, DE – Huxley’s
November 24 – Warsaw, PL – Progresja
November 26 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega
November 29 – Bridlington, UK – Bridlington Spa
November 30 – Glasgow, UK – O2 Academy
December 1 – Newcastle, UK – NX
December 2 – Manchester, UK – O2 Apollo
December 5 – Birmingham, UK – O2 Institute
December 6 – London, UK – Venue TBC
December 7 – Bristol, UK – O2 Academy

RAYE (with Kali Uchis)

April 25 – Austin, TX – Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park
April 26 – Houston, TX – 713 Music Hall
April 27 – Irving, TX – The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
April 30 – Miami, FL – FPL Solar Amphitheater at Bayfront Park
May 1 – Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live Orlando
May 2 – Atlanta, GA – Coca-Cola Roxy
May 4 – New York, NY – Radio City Music Hall
May 5 – New York, NY – Radio City Music Hall
May 7 – Philadelphia, PA – The Met Philadelphia
May 9 – Washington, D.C. – The Anthem
May 10 – Boston, MA – MGM Music Hall at Fenway
May 12 – Toronto, ON – Coca-Cola Coliseum
May 14 – Detroit, MI – The Fillmore
May 15 – Chicago, IL – Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom
May 16 – Chicago, IL – Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom
May 18 – Denver, CO –Fillmore Auditorium
May 23 – Vancouver, BC – UBC Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre
May 24 – Seattle, WA – WAMU Theater
May 26 – San Francisco, CA – Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

Words: Steven Ward

Listen to My 21st Century Blues the new album from RAYE below!

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