If you’ve been on TikTok for the last six months, you may have noticed a song called “Escapism (feat. 070 Shake)” go viral for its catchy chorus and sped-up beat. Yet, it mostly went viral for the artist singing the song, R&B singer RAYE. Even though the singer has had a long history of writing songs for other artists, she still is a star on the brink of striking gold for her solo work.
Since 2016, RAYE has been making music, yet a majority of her recognition as an artist came from the work she was doing for others. During this time, the British singer-songwriter wrote songs such as Charli XCX’s “After the Afterparty” and John Legend’s “A Good Night,” while also releasing her first EP, “SECOND.”
RAYE’s musical genius was evident as a teenager, attending the Brit School, which artists such as Amy Winehouse and Adele also went to, before dropping out because of the judgment she was facing for wanting to be a musician. A year later in 2014, she landed a record deal with Polydor, releasing a single that would launch her to fame, “You Don’t Know Me.”
Yet, this record deal would hinder RAYE’s creativity, as many of her songs were not launching successfully. Seven years after signing with her label, the singer took to Twitter to announce she would now work as an independent artist, saying, “I have been on a 4 ALBUM RECORD DEAL since 2014, and haven’t been allowed to put out one album.”
After years of EPs and singles, the singer finally felt that sense of freedom she was yearning for as an artist, inspiring her to continue making music again. Giving up alcohol, RAYE hinted back in 2021 that her new music would focus a lot on her personal life, as well as her status as a woman in the music industry.
In an interview with The Guardian from that year, she said, “I am just beside myself about how the beautiful songwriters that I know, a lot of whom are women, and a lot of whom are women of color, are just hustling out here. I’m angry, I’m raging. I am fighting so many battles, I need to just chill out.”
Just a year later, RAYE’s shift in her musical style was evident in new songs such as “Black Mascara.,” “Hard Out Here.,” and most importantly, “Escapism (feat. 070 Shake).” The latter immediately struck a chord on social media, gaining the singer a fanbase overnight. Its success provided a breakthrough for her, and she then dropped another EP, “Escapism./The Thrill Is Gone.”
With the momentum the EP was gaining, RAYE didn’t stray away from her promise of releasing her first album. Last month, the singer released “My 21st Century Blues” as still an independent artist, which debuted at No. 2 on the UK’s album chart and No. 1 on Spotify’s debut album global chart shortly after, and even gained the attention of Adele.
Since its release, you may have seen RAYE on the covers of magazines such as Wonderland or perform on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” as well as New York Fashion Week, now a star all over the world.
With an array of important appearances so far throughout this year, RAYE is still slated to be quite busy, especially as she is currently on tour throughout Europe until the middle of March. The singer is also touring again in November and December throughout the continent, leading fans to wonder if she’ll return to the US on tour anytime soon.
Clearly, RAYE has had a stressful rise to fame, but her determination and vulnerability are what have turned her into the star that she is now. Unlike many pop artists right now, the singer isn’t looking to produce chart hits but songs that have an impact and message, which has also allowed her to earn a loyal fanbase. If you haven’t heard RAYE’s music, she’s an artist that is worth your time, as well as your attention.