Album Reviews, Arts & Entertainment

‘My 21st Century Blues’ ditches the restraining diktats of music labels

Raye’s debut album, My 21st Century Blues, triumphantly arrives after years of the singer-songwriter battling with an unsupportive record label. With this new project, released on Feb. 3, the British artist charts an independent path with the distribution and artist services company Human Re Sources.

Pain, frustration, and the difficult journey of creation drive this album. In “Hard Out Here,” Raye opens with, “After years and fears and smiling through my tears / All I ask of you is open your ears,” and voices out, “All the white men CEOs, fuck your privilege / Get your pink chubby hands off my mouth.”

The album’s diverse musicality reflects Raye’s newly-gained artistic liberty. The 25-year-old does not confine herself to one genre, giving each track its own musical identity. Yet, sonically, My 21st Century Blues cohesively explores a multitude of musical universes, all linked by the artist’s life, energy, and creative freedom.

The album starts with “Introduction,” where a presenter announces an upcoming intimate performance by Raye in the fictional 21st Century Blues Club. This enticing introduction sets the album to a captivating start, but it falls short of fully exploring the blues club concept as a narrative tie between the tracks. The deconstructed nature of the songs, however, and their rejection of the classical form of verses and refrains allows them to flow as a coherent yet eclectic mix.

With “The Thrill is Gone” and its jazzy atmosphere, Raye lyrically translates the effects of drugs: Captivating and exciting but also painful. The electro instrumental of “Black Mascara.” gives an energetic and immersive modern house rival to 2010s electro-pop. In “Escapism.,” Raye uses R&B interrupted by a beatless string to develop a touching and lyrical atmosphere ahead of its driving beat. This album is defined by its musical richness, mixing soul, R&B, blues, and hip-hop to elegantly balance retro and contemporary undertones.

After blowing up on TikTok with “Escapism.,” writing singles for artists such as Beyoncé or Charli XCX, and collaborating with many renowned DJs, Raye firmly establishes herself as an impressive independent artist with this powerful debut album.

My 21st Century Blues is available to stream on all platforms.

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