Label: Human Re Sources / The Orchard
Released: 3rd February 2023
“Hello, it’s RAYE here. Please get nice and comfortable, and lock your phones, because the story is about to begin.” It’s a story we’ve all been waiting for with bated breath – a rocky few years fighting tooth and nail to free herself from the clutches of a record label limiting her potential have meant that RAYE’s latest album has been a long time coming. After the colossal success of ‘Escapism’ over on TikTok, it arrives to suitable fanfare – a legion of listeners finally recognising RAYE for her talents, which she exhibits in full force throughout the course of ‘My 21st Century Blues’.
A problem shared is a problem halved, and it undoubtedly seems that with every outpouring of distress and hurt, RAYE emerges lighter. It is, at times, a heavy listen – ‘Black Mascara’ is a furious, dejected retelling of being misled and having your trust ruined, to a tears-on-the-dancefloor beat. ‘Ice Cream Man’ sees her distinctive vocals shine as she navigates the strength it takes to be a woman – it’s at once heart-wrenching and wrought with pain but immensely empowering.
She never hesitates to express the true depth of her feelings, and at times the album is alive with writhing, ferocious emotions. Yet, in unleashing those experiences out into the world, the intensity of them is alleviated. She’s unstoppable on her latest offering, tackling every hardship that has befallen her of late and doing so with smooth, jazz-leaning vocals and slick beats. “There is no wrath like a woman scorned,” she declares on lead single ‘Hard Out Here’, and on ‘My 21st Century Blues’ she proves exactly that – RAYE’s wrath is scalding, laying waste to all that have stood in her way until now.