The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Spectator Sing Along Power Hour

Raye’s ‘My 21st Century Blues’ shares her journey in life through music

I woke up this morning to find that one of my favorite artists won six BRIT Awards. I know that most people, regardless of how much they care about celebrities, have one person that they truly believe deserves the world. For me, that’s Raye.

Rachel Agatha Keen, known by most as Raye, is a singer, songwriter and musician who is originally from London, England. Her music fits best within the spheres of R&B and Soul. 

Raye signed to Polydor Records when she was 17. She was with them for seven years, and throughout that time, struggled to convince those above her that her music was good enough to release. She decided to go independent. Personally, I can’t imagine how Polydor Records feels now. 

She is currently one of the most popular musicians in the UK and is now the record holder for the number of BRIT Award wins in one year.

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After years of rejection, her debut album, “My 21st Century Blues,” was released on Feb. 3, 2023. The album contains 15 tracks and runs for 46 minutes and 52 seconds. 

As someone who has been consuming a wide range of music for longer than they can remember, as well as someone who has been involved in music for most of their life, I’d like to think that I am well equipped to say my piece on music. 

“My 21st Century Blues” is one of the only albums I genuinely have nothing bad to say about. The production is incomparable and I have never heard anything like it. It is uplifting, it has funk, it is beautiful, it is heartbreaking, it is gut-wrenching and it is eye-opening. It is absolutely everything.

The first track “Introduction.” sets the scene and makes listeners feel like they are in a jazz club. 

Immediately, it transitions into “Oscar Winning Tears.” It opens with my favorite line, “Ladies and gentleman / I’m gonna tell you ‘bout one of the many men / name is irrelevant / height is irrelevant / he was a one out of ten I wish that I knew it then / I’m still recovering.” 

It sets a base down to share her experiences not getting what she wants from her first label and ends with her leaving.

The first few songs have a similar theme but the pace quickly switches up. The fifth track “Mary Jane.” opens up a portion of the album that lets listeners understand her struggles with addiction. 

I will absolutely never understand how she manages to talk about vulnerability through a song so catchy. The guitar and harmonies are unreal. 

This album, to nobody’s surprise, gets even better as you keep listening. I genuinely cannot pick favorites but I have to admit that the four I listen to most are all together in the tracklist. If you take anything away from reading this, listen to these four songs. Please.

The first is “Ice Cream Man.” In it, Raye shares her experience with sexual assault and being taken advantage of in the music industry. It is one of the rawest songs I’ve heard. My favorite line is, “You made me frame myself for your sin / you pathetic dead excuse of a man.” Ouch.

The next song of this “core four” of mine is “Flip A Switch.” It is genuinely the best song to hype someone up with. The instrumentals, specifically the guitar, are my favorite part. It feels like she’s taking her power back from people who wronged her.

Next is “Body Dysmorphia.” This one genuinely breaks me. I’m one of those people who loves to watch album reaction videos (For those wondering, HTHAZE is my favorite) and this one always makes people cry uncontrollably. As the title suggests, this one details her struggles with body image. The end, which I won’t spoil, is genuinely cruel.

The final song in this stretch of perfection is the one that deserves all of the attention, “Environmental Anxiety.” If you could make a song that details every single thing wrong with the world, this is it. It solidifies my reason for loving Raye. She raises awareness for what’s important and does it in music, which I would consider a universal language.

A few songs later, the album sadly closes with “Fin.” It is similar to the first track, as listeners are transported back to the picturesque jazz club where the show is ending. It, in my opinion, is the perfect closing for this album.

The storyline, the production and the pure artistry involved in this album are something to be studied. I believe that every person needs to experience it.

The best way I can describe this entire album is that it’s genuinely huge. It surrounds you completely and you can feel it wrapping around you. It is everything and more. I have never been prouder to have discovered an artist who has worked too hard to make her dreams come true.

Braun can be reached at [email protected].

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