Raye told music lovers on “Escapism” that she could provide me context if they cared to listen, and that they did. On her debut album, My 21st Century Blues, the singer leaves no stone unturned. Across the 15 tracks, Raye addresses her former label’s mistreatment, battling depression, and other traumatic experiences she has had to overcome in order to get to where she is today.
On the single “Ice Cream Man,” she painfully outlines the life of a sexual assault survivor. For her Jimmy Kimmel Live performance, she poured that heartbreak all over the stage for viewers to sit with. Comfortably positioned at the piano, backed by other musicians, Raye opens with the dark truth of how so many aspiring musicians are preyed upon. The chorus, “Coming like the ice cream man / ‘Til I felt his ice-cold hands / And how I pay the price now, damn / God damn, no what the, God damn / Everything you did, it left me in a ruin / And no, I didn’t say a word, I guess that proves it,” broadcasts that emotional spiral assault survivors find themselves on after they’ve been violated.
However, after building up the strength to reclaim her power, Raye belts out, “Cause I’m a woman / I’m a very f*cking brave strong woman/ And I’ll be damned if I let a man ruin / How I walk, how I talk, how I do it / Man, I’ve been broken for a moment, I’ve been through it no / It’s even harder to be brave alone / Was a girl, now I’m grown, I’m a woman / A very f*cking strong woman.”
When asked about the project, in a statement, Raye said, “My 21st Century Blues. My debut album. My ugly, complex, beautiful mosaic formed from broken pieces of glass from the last seven years of my life. This music is my medicine, my anxieties, traumas, and unfiltered thoughts. The music on this record empowered me to face my demons and has accompanied me through my bluest blues, crafted unapologetically and fearlessly with love and tears. Now I can only hope it might provide the same medicine it did for me for those who choose to listen.”
The musician later added, “Some of these songs I’ve had for years that I’ve needed to express and share. Before, I was told it was too uncomfortable and that audiences don’t want to hear it. There’s no sonic through-line. It was just creating whatever felt right for the story I wanted to tell over it. It just feels free.”
Watch Raye’s full performance of “Ice Cream Man” above.