Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Raye: Rage, frustration and devastation. She fought for years to release the album

“I’m roaring on national television! I’m so proud of this album, I love music and I’ve always dreamed of being an artist,” she said. Raye from the stage, receiving another statuette. The singer was nominated for BRIT Awards 2024 in seven categories, and cards with her nickname eventually appeared in six envelopes. Every time “Raye” was heard from the stage, the artist was equally shocked. Also, every time there were people behind her back who gave the singer a standing applause. These were those who knew exactly what path the singer had taken to release the album. What seemed like an American dream in Great Britain turned out to be a nightmare.

Rachel Agatha Keen, who proudly emphasizes that her middle name comes from her grandmother, was born in south London. The girl had contact with music from the beginning of her life, because her father ran the church choir, in which her mother sang. The artist clearly had talent in her genes, so as soon as the family realized that the little girl had a great voice, the future star started singing gospel songs. Raye quickly realized that she wanted to connect her life with the stage. The singer was around eight years old at the time. Rachel watched musical talent shows on TV every week and dreamed that one day she would get her big break. However, we know that nothing will happen on its own, so the singer started with music competitions at her school, in which she took part every year. Once she even overcame fear and shame enough to present her own song. Although these competitions did not bring the artist fame, they allowed her to prove herself, and this is invaluable for a beginner musician.

The singer’s family was very supportive of her dreams of singing professionally, so they sent Raye to BRIT School. It is a prestigious institution where education is free, but it is very difficult to get there. Children learn, among other things, music theory, dance, acting, singing, how to record albums, organize concert tours, design lighting or scenography. The assumption is that the facility is to educate future artists. Of course, even the best teachers cannot replace talent or hard work, but graduates are aware of what the market looks like and “what it involves”. Someone who graduated from BRIT School knows how to prepare a demo, who to contact about a contract or how to release the first song. Graduates from this school included: Adele, Jessie J, Amy Winehouse, Tom Holland and Leona Lewisso it’s hard to imagine better advertising.

Raye spent two years at the facility and then left the school. The singer admitted that she learned a lot there, but at some point she felt a bit limited. Her friends dreamed of being alternative musicians, while she created more pop songs and was embarrassed to present them. Of course, no one ridiculed her, but she also didn’t feel encouraged to write such music. However, the artist did not give up studying. The future star spent weekends in recording studios to further learn how to create in real conditions.

Fortune smiled on the singer, because “HotBox”, a pop song that was created during her school days, was heard Olly Alexander from the Years and Years group. The musician presented the song to the employees of his record label, and they stated that the girl had great talent. From there, things moved quickly. Raye signed a contract to start making songs. For a teenager who dreamed of a career on stage, it was like a dream come true. The second stage of this dream about music was the signing of a contract to release four albums shortly thereafter. The singer has already seen herself at concerts, she imagined people who listen to her albums at home or on their way to work, fans for whom her songs are the soundtrack to important moments in their lives. The singer did not know then that these dreams would not come true any time soon.

Shortly after signing the contract, Raye was told that the music she wanted to release, R&B, wouldn’t sell, so she should consider something else. It was a surprise for the artist, especially since the singer already had the album ready even before she signed the contract. “I was 17, and they had already been courting me for three years. When I was 14, I started taking part in songwriting sessions in studios. People from the label invited me to elegant dinners and told me sweet things. ‘You’re going to create with this big star’ – they said. ‘This person loves your music.’ ‘Your life will change forever.’ At that age, it was very important to talk to people who believed in me. But soon I saw that the dreams they stuffed me with were just empty talk. “- recalled the singer in “British Vogue”.

The artist actually had an EP under her belt.Welcome to the Winter“, released independently, and then, already on the label, subsequent small releases, but her goal was the whole album. Meanwhile, the chances for it turned out to be less and less. The singer heard that she should write slightly different songs, more danceable, easier to listen to . Ones that will simply sell. Raye may not have been thrilled, but back then she still believed that her advisors and bosses were probably right, that she had to try, prove herself and “deserve” to release her own album. So the singer got down to work.

Following the instructions, the artist focused on dance music. Soon, many songs that Raye had written, co-written or sung began to appear on the charts. The future star became one of the most fashionable guest vocalists for famous producers. Her list of collaborators included: Joel Corry, David Guetta, JaxJones, Martin Solveig, Regard and Jonas Blue. Moreover, on the way to record with the latter, the singer had a serious car accident when another driver pushed her off the road. Despite this, the tearful artist appeared in the studio and sang a cheerful song. Raye also wrote and provided backing vocals for many stars, including: Beyonce, Charlie XCX, Little Mix, Rihanna, Ellie Goulding and John Legendalso cooperated with, for example, Stromzy. Her first successes on the market allowed her to prove herself and earn good money, because the singer was able to buy her own house. However, the singer still dreamed of the promised album, but nothing came of it.

Songs for or with other artists, or even her own singles, were not what Raye had hoped for. These things, she said, “made her bank account happy,” but she felt frustrated. Finally, in June 2021, something moved. The singer released the song “Call on Me” and heard a promise that if the song did well on the charts, the company would give the green light for the album. So Raye got up every day and immediately checked the single’s charts. “I wouldn’t wish such pressure on anyone,” she said later. The song did not turn out to be a hit, and the artist was once again told that her album had to wait a while longer. This turned out to be the last straw. The singer had just moved into a house bought thanks to the work under other people’s names, she was hanging a poster of her beloved Nina Simone and something broke inside her. “What did I do? “What the hell am I doing?” – thought the singer.

Raye then posted a series of tweets (today X). “Imagine the pain. I signed a contract with a major label in 2014. My entire albums ended up in folders, where they just lie there and collect dust. Now I give my songs to world-leading artists because I’m still waiting for confirmation that I’m good enough, to release my own album,” the singer explained. The singer added that she knows that such things should be handled within the company, but she is tired of waiting. “I did everything they asked me to do. I changed genres, I worked seven days a week, ask anyone in this business, people know. I’m tired of being a meek pop star. I want to finally record an album. Please, that’s all I want,” wrote the distraught artist. The singer didn’t stop there. The next day, Raye posted a video on Instagram in which she admitted that she had “hit a wall.” “Either they will listen to me now, or we will break up and they will save themselves the trouble. Because I will try to make it a problem for them,” the singer said in the recording.

The decision to post the video was spontaneous. At that time, Raye was writing about two hundred songs a year, had learned music production, had multi-platinum singles under her belt, but she still hadn’t been approved for an album. The singer explained in an interview with the BBC: “It was a cry of despair for freedom.” The singer’s entries received a huge response from the music industry. There were artists who complained that they also ended up in the “freezers” of various companies and had been waiting for the release of their albums for a long time. Publicly, Raye’s label explained that it was sorry about the singer’s situation. The company also offered the future star’s manager, i.e. her father, full support. Behind the scenes, however, the singer was asked not to give any interviews. “Okay, then let me go,” she replied. Raye didn’t even expect how great the power of social media and her posts would turn out to be. A dozen or so days later, the label released the artist from the contract and the star could finally arrange her career her own way.

Raye started putting her debut album together from scratch. She wanted to tell her whole story, without sugar coating. The story of a person who always wanted to sing, but encountered a lot of pain and difficult moments along the way. For example, the artist does not hide – and mentions it on the album – that at some point she became too familiar with drugs and stimulants to the point that it became dangerous. “I think I was able to endure what was happening to my career for a long time because I was still in some way desensitized,” the star said in an interview for the BBC. Raye already had more than half of the songs for her debut album up her sleeve, but she changed all of them significantly. The singer also created completely new things, such as “Hard Out There“, with lyrics about “white CEOs” with “chubby, pink hands”. You don’t have to wonder for long who she wanted to hit. One of the fresh songs turned out to be the song “Escapism“. The singer had had the idea for this single in her head for years, but only after breaking the contract she decided to implement it. After problems with her former company, the artist no longer wanted to be associated with a large label, but just in case, she went to several meetings. At all of them she presented this song. song and heard from every manager that “it’s cool, but it probably won’t be a success.” This only confirmed the singer’s belief that she had to release the album herself.

At the end of 2022, the single “Escapism”, featuring the rapper 070 Shake, conquered TikTok. At one point, Raye boasted that, according to statistics, every second person who came across a song in the application returned to it later on streaming services. Not surprisingly, the song also hit the traditional charts and gave Raye her first number one single of her career. Soon, the artist also released the long-awaited album “My 21st Century Blues“I’m finally here and I can finally decide about my career,” the singer told the BBC. The singer had one more reason to be proud: she quit stimulants because – as she said – she realized how much she was harming herself.

What happened after the album’s success? The artist’s former company wished her good luck and even sent the singer flowers. “It’s actually nice,” said the star. Raye, in turn, showed herself and the world that sometimes it’s worth persisting, even though everyone around you is trying to convince you to let go. Because – as the singer said – “it’s great to be able to prove people that they were wrong.”