Having hit the big time, with her risky declaration of independence already paying off in spades, does her debut album bode well for the future? The backstory precedes her. In the space of two years RAYE has gone from a competent feature on dance tracks to a fully-fledged independent popstar, with the British scene cheering her on as if they'd all been shafted by Polydor. As she has remarked several times, the mere release of this debut album feels like an achievement regardless of reception, but luckily there are also several great tunes in here to kickstart her solo career.
With confidence, 'My 21st Century Blues' pushes against the boundaries previously placed on her music. There's an empowered defiance on display, the record's opening tracks cementing this moment as all her own. "I'm a very fucking brave strong woman," she demands on powerful midpoint 'Ice Cream Man', a fact that underpins the record's blend of soul, hip hop, blues and a multitude of other styles.
My 21st Century Blues is the debut record that should have been released years ago. In June 2021, Rachel Keen took to Twitter to reveal her four-album deal with Polydor had yet to bear a single album, despite being signed for nearly seven years. After years of drip-bleeding single after single and undergoing multiple traumatic events , RAYE has finally jumped at the chance to release her debut album – but perhaps too hurriedly.