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‘It’s not been the simplest story’ Raye on her journey to the Brits


Image Credit: BBC

Raye has bagged a  record-breaking seven nominations at this year’s Brit Awards, making a full stop at what seems like one of the biggest comeback stories in pop music. Rachel Keen, who is currently known as Raye in her career, has always been a force, barrelling about the music industry since she was nothing but a mere teenager. To people outside it seemed like it was all going fine. She wrote for industry giants like Beyoncé, Charlie XCX, and Little Mix. At the same time, she produced several records for Rihanna and John Legend. Her collaborations included David Guetta and Stormzy. She also had various hits in her bag like ‘Secrets’, and ‘You Don’t Know Me’. However, as a solo artist, she had her music questioned and rejected multiple times.

She went ahead to sign a four-album deal with Polydor Records, but after five years in 2021, the label was still refusing her debut album. Nothing that she was coming up with was enough for the label. Not knowing what else to do, she posted her frustrations on social media with a video message. Raye said dozens of potentials were just “sat in folders collecting dust”, while others of her tracks were being given to bigger pop stars, “because I am still awaiting confirmation that I am good enough”. “I’ve done everything [Polydor] asked me, I switched genres, I worked seven days a week,” Raye said. “They either listen to me now or we part ways and they can save themselves this headache. Because I’m about to make it a headache.” The label’s public response was sympathetic, but behind closed doors, they instructed not to give any more public interviews.

Eventually, the label came to an agreement where Raye was free of her contract but she was allowed to keep the records that she had written. Among them was Escapism which was written in dark times as she self-medicated with meaningless sex and drugs. This has also faced disapproval from Polydor but when she played it to other labels, they agreed. “People were like, ‘Yeah, this is cool [but] it’s just something Raye needs to get out of her system,” she commented about the situation. The singer disagreed and released Escapism independently. It immediately went viral on social media and went to number one after tens of millions of streams.

The singer followed this global smash hit with her long-awaited debut album ‘My 21st Century Blues’. A triumphant, catchy, and gritty record showcases her ability to perfectly genre-hop between styles like hip-hop, dance, soul, jazz, and gospel, without ever losing her true sense of musical identity. By the end of the year, it was a huge success and sold more than 60,000 copies. The album has also been nominated for a Mercury Prize, and she has already been honored with the Brit’s coveted songwriter of the year award. “It’s just brilliant when you get to prove people wrong,” Raye said of her success. “It’s not been the simplest story – but it just shows that you should back yourself, no matter what people tell you.”


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