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British singer/songwriter RAYE is a dynamic force of pop music, quickly ascending to become one of the brightest stars of her time both a headliner and an in-demand collaborator. Her effortlessly smooth vocals and hook-laden songs began to take hold after she showed up as a featured artist on tracks by Jonas Blue and Jax Jones, with her 2020 mini-album Euphoric Sad Songs, scoring a Top Ten single with "Secrets." RAYE had assisted dozens of other artists spanning pop, R&B, rap, and dance music -- ranging from Charli XCX and Ellie Goulding to David Guetta and Beyoncé -- and was a star in her own right by the time she issued her first album, My 21st Century Blues (2023), containing the number one U.K. hit "Escapism." A native of South London, RAYE (Rachel Keen) was born and raised in Tooting before she moved to Croydon in her teens. Starting her career at the age of ten, she was guided by her father and her guitar teacher. Her interest in music quickly led to small charity gigs and singing in her local church. By 2012, RAYE had enrolled in the prestigious BRIT School to perfect her craft, but she left after two years (in 2014) due to the limitations she was being taught and the desire to create her own rules. Just before the end of 2014, RAYE self-released her R&B-leaning debut EP, Welcome to the Winter. The lead single, "Hotbox," was noticed by Olly Alexander, aka Years & Years, who got in touch with RAYE and arranged a meeting with the A&R department at Polydor. With major-label backing from Polydor, RAYE kept busy in 2016, including co-writing her single "I, U, US" alongside Charli XCX, appearing as a featured artist on Jonas Blue's "By Your Side" and Jax Jones' "You Don't Know Me" -- two Top 20 U.K. hits -- and releasing her own Second EP. She was back working with Charli XCX the following year, guesting on the singer's tracks "Girls" and "Dreamer." Also in 2017, RAYE scored her first U.K. pop hits as a lead artist with "The Line," which reached number 65, and "Decline," a collaboration with Mr. Eazi that peaked at number 15. "Decline" and the subsequent number 41 single "Cigarette," featuring Mabel and Stefflon Don, led the 2018 EP Side Tape. RAYE was heard around the same time on Kojo Funds' Top 40 hit "Check." RAYE's ascent continued over the next few years. In 2019, she teamed up with David Guetta for "Stay (Don't Go Away)" and "Make It to Heaven" (also featuring Morten), amid one-off collaborations as a co-writer for songs by artists including Beyoncé ("Bigger," off The Lion King: The Gift) and Ellie Goulding (the Top 40 U.K. single "Sixteen"). In November 2020, RAYE released the mini-album Euphoric Sad Songs, the source of the number six U.K. hit "Secrets" (featuring Regard), and the number 37 single "Regardless" (a collaboration with Rudimental). She returned to the U.K. Top Ten in 2021 with the number three single "Bed," another collaboration with Guetta, and helped take D-Block Europe to number 14 with "Ferrari Horses." Also during 2021, RAYE's mounting frustrations with Polydor -- over artistic direction and the label's refusal to issue her first proper full-length -- led to her release from the four-album contract she had signed seven years earlier. RAYE subsequently signed a licensing and distribution deal with Human Re Sources, thereby giving her artistic control. The first singles from RAYE's debut album arrived the next year. After "Hard Out Here" and "Mascara," RAYE scored her first number one U.K. hit with the unguarded 070 Shake collaboration "Escapism." The feat set the stage for the February 2023 arrival of My 21st Century Blues. RAYE co-wrote each song and was assisted chiefly by Mike Sabath. The album charted worldwide, reaching the number two spot in the U.K. and as high as 58 in the States. Promotion surrounding the album included extensive touring, a televised BBC special filmed at Royal Albert Hall that found RAYE accompanied by a 50-person orchestra and gospel choir, plans for a performance of “My 21st Century Symphony” to a sold-out crowd of 20,000 at The O2 Arena, as well as a Coachella debut.
© Andy Kellman & Liam Martin /TiVo


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