RAYE's Rise to Stardom: A Tale of Talent, Tenacity, and Triumph 🎤✨
Exploring RAYE's journey from church choirs to chart-topping success and her unflinching lyrical honesty.
Pop music's structural palette has always changed and evolved, musical artists in this genre have come and gone as trends begin and end. But, through it all one artist has shone brighter than most of her counterparts. Bridging the gap between songwriting and musical production, RAYE established herself as an artist to be reckoned with. Though the journey was hard, she has managed to get where she wants to be musically. We will look deeper into the life of RAYE and how she has gotten to where she is today.
RAYE, born Rachel Agatha Keen, was born on the 24th of October 1997, in Tooting, South London. She was born to a Ghanaian-Swiss mother and an English father. Her musical dreams started very young. Her father was the musical director at their church and her mother sang in the choir and naturally, young RAYE joined her. She listened to artists like Amy Winehouse, Jill Scott, Tame Impala and Nina Simone. These artists helped to shape her musical journey. She moved to Croydon, where she went to the BRIT school, and dropped out after two years. She said that she felt very confined to what she could do musically. She spent most of her teenage years, songwriting, producing and spending as much time as she could in the studio.
One of the most striking aspects of RAYE's discography is her ability to navigate diverse musical landscapes seamlessly. From infectious pop anthems to soulful R&B ballads and dancefloor-ready bangers, RAYE refuses to be confined by genre boundaries. Her debut EP, "Welcome to the Winter," released at the age of seventeen in 2014, served as a tantalizing introduction to her versatile sound. Despite her young age, a lot of people were talking about her musical brilliance and could not wait to hear what she had to offer next.
Two years later, she released her second EP, called "Second". The promotional singles featured Stormzy. She was working with Charli XCX through directing her music videos. Here, she began to work with producer and DJ Jax Jones, where she began to use her songwriting expertise. The song started debuting on the UK Charts and peaked at number three. To this current day, the song is certified double Platinum.
Between 2016 and 2018, she began collaborating with a multitude of artists for features and songwriting purposes. In November 2017, she released her first single from her next EP called, “Decline” which featured Mr. Eazi peaked at number fifteen on the UK Charts and is now certified Platinum. Then in 2018, she began to roll out her EP. She worked with Mabel and Stefflon Don on the song “Cigarette”. Her biggest collaboration came around this time, with Kojo Funds on the song “Check” which is now certified Gold. Both “Decline” and “Cigarette” were featured on her 2018 EP, titled "Side Tape". Side Tape received positive reviews with the feel-good rhythms of London's Afro-swing and pop fusion.
Her next mini-album, "Euphoric Sad Songs" was quietly around the airwaves. In 2019, the album centred around the seven stages of grief, each stage that RAYE said she had been struggling with as she wrote the album. But, after 2019, RAYE became silent across social media and sightings.
RAYE has never been quiet about her relationship with the music industry. Around 2021, she posted on social media that her label at the time; Polydor Records had been withholding her debut album for many years. Many artists came to her defence like MNEK, Rina Sawayama and Charli XCX. After this statement, RAYE decided to take a brief hiatus. In July 2021, she released that she had parted ways with the label and is now going independent.
In early 2022, she began releasing songs like, “Hard Out Here” “Black Mascara” and “Escapism” as singles for her now 2023 critically acclaimed debut album, “My 21st Century Blues”. The album peaked at number two on the UK Charts. As “Escapism” rose in popularity on social media, it rose in the charts and went to number one in its first week becoming her first number one of her career so far.
Talking further about her latest album, RAYE distinguishes herself as a lyricist who fearlessly explores the complexities of love, heartbreak, mental health and self-discovery. Her lyrics are often poignant, raw, and unapologetically honest. In the era of carefully curated personas, RAYE's willingness to lay bare her emotions adds a layer of authenticity that resonates with listeners on a profound level.
In tracks like "Mary Jane” RAYE confronts her journey to sobriety, in a love song about her substance abuse. It gets deep into the juxtaposition of wanting to be better but missing the feeling of relief when you are running away from the issues that drove you to that place.
Another track called “Body Dysmorphia” discusses societal pressures placed on women concerning bodily image. The song also reflects on the struggles RAYE has had over the years with her body and struggling with body dysmorphia. With similar themes, “Ice Cream Man” talks deeply about sexual abuse and the deep trauma that can form by bottling it up. She revealed that she had been sexually abused when she was young by a record producer.
These songs serve as empowering anthems that not only address societal expectations but also position RAYE as an artist unafraid to speak her truth. This authenticity has endeared her fans and critics alike, making her a relatable figure in an industry that often thrives on glamour and mystique.
RAYE's impact extends beyond the confines of the recording studio. As an outspoken advocate for social justice and mental health awareness, she uses her platform to address issues that resonate with her and her audience. In 2020, RAYE launched the "Euphoric Sad Songs" initiative, a project that encourages open conversations about mental health through music.
As an artist who refuses to be pigeonholed, RAYE's evolution is a captivating journey to witness. Her debut album, eagerly awaited by fans and critics alike, promised to be a culmination of her diverse influences and unwavering commitment to artistic exploration, and it delivered all she had originally promised. RAYE's ability to seamlessly blend genres, coupled with her lyrical depth and social consciousness, positions her as a trailblazer in an industry that constantly demands reinvention.
Her new debut album, "My 21st Century Blues" is out now! Listen below!