ALBUM REVIEW: RAYE – My 21st Century Blues

While I was on hiatus a lot of great albums and body of work’s came out. But there was one in particular that I felt conveyed to talk about once I came back, and that is RAYE’s debut album “My 21st Century Blues”. It’s not every day that an album like RAYE’s comes into the world, and I whole heartedly believe I will forever remember where I was the first time I heard it, and all the vicarial emotions I felt while listening. 

I was on my commute to work. I had just hopped on the bus when I pressed play on “Introduction.” Immediately I was brought into her visual world where she was sitting in front of me and indulging me in all of her truths. No interruptions, and no half-listening while working or scrolling through my phone. It was just me, her, and the blurry background of Sydney city as my bus weaved through the streets. 

“Oscar Winning Tears.” sets the tone with its poetic approach with her honest re-telling of her experience as a woman. From there the album holds a delicate heaviness as she glides into singles “Hard Out Here.”, “Black Mascara.” and “Escapism.” which are all met with the same level of importance as she shares the raw emotions. You find yourself living off her every word as you become closer to her through her story. 

“Mary Jane.” and “The Thrill Is Gone.” hear her exploring addiction because of her pain and trauma, and their delivery has a different flow and energy to them. During this moment I’ve hopped off my bus and walked through the city and am about to hop on a packed light rail, and as the doors close “Ice Cream Man.” begins. Immediately covered in goosebumps, I am transported to the aftermath of my own experience with the vivid imagery of “coming like the ice cream man, til I felt his ice-cold hands” perfectly capturing my own memories. Tears start falling down my cheek and everyone is looking at me but I don’t stop listening. I knew just by looking at the name of “Body Dysmorphia.” That it was going to ruin me, and as I hopped off the light rail and started walking up to the office I quickly discovered I was right. The tears were slowly falling down my cheek as she validated my struggle with intimacy and my unhealthy relationship with my body. The lyrics “And I don’t really like my body. But knowin’ it’s my only body, I should probably call somebody” still haunt me now, as I know she’s right. 

Self described by RAYE as the most chaotic song on the album “Environmental Anxiety.” Is the perfect embodiment of where we are at as a society and a reminder of the change that still needs to happen. As the album steers into its final moments “Worth.”and “Buss It Down.” bring a sense of hope and strength as she reclaims her story, and by now I’m sitting at my desk and smiling at the empowering, confronting, and vulnerable journey we’ve just been on together. While she says her thank you’s during “Fin.” I’m already hovering over “Introduction.” ready to start again. 

“My 21st Century Blues” is one of the most important and special albums of the year, and everyone should listen to it at least once. It’s beautiful, vulnerable, and triggering, but it’s also empowering and theraputic. She articulates herself with such delicacy and preciseness, that you realise that every word she sings is a word she needed to say.