Column: BRITS 2024: A RAYE of Hope in the Industry

Saturday night saw musical history as RAYE was awarded six BRIT Awards, including Artist of the Year, Song of the Year (Escapism. ft 070 Shake) and Mastercard Album of the Year, for the genre-defying My 21st Century Blues. Want to know more about what makes her so musically brilliant? Read on…
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Not only had RAYE won six awards, she gave a performance so powerful that it cemented her place as a cultural icon. It was a medley of tracks from her album, first performed intimately at the piano before an orchestra and gospel choir were unveiled – I got the same feeling of awe that watching Adele can evoke: you weren’t just listening to songs, instead you were experiencing an artist.

My 21st Century Blues is unlike any album I’ve heard. You need to listen to it, start to finish, without distraction. It can’t be on in the background, or put on shuffle. She describes her songs as ‘stories’, narratives first and foremost with music as a vehicle.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Introduction. Sets the scene in a blues club, a host welcoming a singer called RAYE. She’s quietly cheered onto stage for Oscar Winning Tears., asking that the audience ‘get nice and comfortable, and lock (their) phones’ – she wants this album to be an immersive experience, for listeners to be engaged.

Use the 'Submit a Story' link to tell us your news.Use the 'Submit a Story' link to tell us your news.
Use the 'Submit a Story' link to tell us your news.

The song has a crushing beat, but RAYE’s blending of rap and soulful vocal are completely entrancing. Each track title ends with a full stop, and it feels as if the lines of the chorus do too: a staccato rhythm making the orchestral power of the song more prominent.

Things calm before the final chorus, but make it clear that a storm is brewing – you think the song has reached its climax with the soaring ‘cry’, but again we fall into a lull before the finale. You’re not sure she’s even going to fit the words to the music but she clings to it – atmospheric on another level.

The following tracks mix influences in order to explore deep issues; the album is not easy listening, discussing sexual assault, Body Dysmorphia., and Environmental Anxiety. It is art as expression, making it more than just music.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The BRIT winner Escapism. uses a hip-hop beat and eerie electronica to chart the effects of a break up – it has a pained rawness with sharp hi-hat strikes, rap and a pleading refrain. Rain falls with the echoing outro before those drums return and RAYE’s tight lyric is covered by a distorted noise, encapsulating the frame of mind in the song.

Worth It. is back in the blues club, with warm piano and relaxed vocalisation. RAYE laughs ‘I’m just tryin’ tell you how I feel’ before an R&B track begins; it’s slow and luxurious with rich backing vocal, but has a cool funk to its blunt chorus. She plays with the brass section, bouncing her vocal with it; it has a humble quality, but is truly confident.

Adele using voice notes on 30 gave us a multimedia layer and real insight into the artist, but RAYE takes it further by stepping forward to actively talk to her listener, rather than just be heard by them. She uses Fin. to thank us for listening, and make her acknowledgements, something that used to be on sleeve notes but in the world of streaming has been lost.

She’s a true artist, on her own independent label, and as demonstrated at the BRITs, has a warmth and integrity that the industry needs – this is only the beginning.

Related topics: