What Raye’s BRITs Success Can Teach You About The Power Of Reclaiming Your Own Story

raye music success
The Powerful Act Of Reclaiming Your Own Story Naomi Baker - The FA

On Saturday night, Raye headed to the 02 Arena with her mother, father and grandmother. With her raven hair perfectly coiffed and clad in a floor-sweeping bedazzled black Fendi gown, the family took their seats at a table in the heart of the arena’s floor, which had been transformed into the setting for the BRIT Awards 2024. It took just 10 minutes for the singer to win her first award for Song of the Year. It took exactly 50 minutes for her to win six BRIT Awards, solidifying her name in the history books as the first person to ever win a sextet of gongs in one year, smashing the previous record of four held by Harry Styles, Adele and Blur. Before Saturday, Raye (real name Rachel Keen) had never won a BRIT Award before.

In the last 48 hours, Raye has become a towering example of the power of redemption and what can happen when women have the courage to reclaim their own stories. This is the story of a woman who blew up everything she had in order to save everything she had.

london, england march 02 editorial use only no publications devoted exclusively to the artist raye attends the brit awards 2024 at the o2 arena on march 02, 2024 in london, england photo by karwai tangwireimage
Raye attending the 2024 BRIT Awards.Karwai Tang

Let’s rewind a bit. Raye, who attended the infamous BRIT School in Croydon, whose alumni includes Adele and Amy Winehouse, was signed by record company Polydor in 2014 and rose to fame at 19 years old by featuring on Jax Jones' 'You Don't Know Me'. With syrupy vocals that echoed those of one of her idol, Nina Simone, Raye’s voice began cropping up as features on dance-heavy songs across the board from the likes of David Guetta, Jax Jones, Major Lazer. But despite being signed into a four-album deal, by 2020 Raye had only released one ‘mini album’, Euphoric Sad Songs. Her voice had been relegated by those in positions of power to that of a guest vocalist.


Raye’s arrival as a woman reclaiming her power from the hands of those who were in charge of her career came a year later when, in June 2021, she posted a tearful plea to her then-50,000 Twitter followers by alleging that she had done everything her label had asked of her yet was still ‘awaiting confirmation that I am good enough’ to release a full-length album.

‘I am on a 4 ALBUM RECORD DEAL since 2014,’ she vented, claiming she was ‘done being a polite pop star’. ‘But haven’t been allowed to put out one album.’ Polydor responded to Raye’s claims with a statement. ‘We were saddened to read RAYE’s tweets last night and have reached out to her management team to discuss and offer our full support,’ a spokesperson for the label confirmed to NME in 2021, and a month later, in mid-July, Polydor released Raye from her contract, marking the beginning of her life as an independent artist. The tweets triggered a tsunami of support from the music industry with MNEK, Ray BLK and Shura all echoing similar experiences. In a karmic twist of fate for the industry itself, ‘Escapism’, Raye’s song featuring 070 Shake, was one of the tracks ignored by her former label and on Saturday was the reason she won her first BRIT Award. Like a phoenix from the ashes, Raye’s artistry has been re-born.

raye at the valentino fall 2023 couture collection runway show at the chateau de chantilly on july 5, 2023 in paris, france photo by francois goizewwd via getty images
WWD - Getty Images

Raye’s reclaiming of her voice is an indicator that the traditional model of the music industry itself is different. It’s proof that the power dynamic has shifted; no longer do labels and executives holed up in high-rise offices, often far-removed from the fanbases they’re looking to connect with, possess the clout they once did. It’s also proof of the public’s ravenous appetite for tales of female redemption. Taylor Swift, who has been embattled in her own litigious battle with Big Machine Records, has established a similar blueprint to the one Raye has moulded for herself. Swift boycotted Spotify for three years in protest at its freemium model. In August 2019 she revealed that she would be re-recording her first six studio albums in order to gain total control and ownership of her past work. Her re-recorded albums then went on to break records: Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was the first re-recorded album in history to top Billboard’s charts and Red (Taylor’s Version) broke Spotify’s record for the most-streamed album in a day by a female artist when it was released.

los angeles, california october 11 taylor swift attends the taylor swift the eras tour concert movie world premiere at amc the grove 14 on october 11, 2023 in los angeles, california photo by john shearergetty images for tas
John Shearer - Getty Images

These are women who engage with their fans on their own terms the way that they want to. Swift confirmed that her upcoming album, The Tortured Poets Department, in January while on stage at the Grammys and then posted about it on social media. She announced her current record-breaking Eras tour in 2022 while being interviewed on Good Morning America and then, once again, posted about it on social media. No longer do stars require intermediaries to speak on their behalf. Gone are the days when female popstars allowed others to write, tell or indeed fill in the blanks about the stories of their lives. Their voices are finally their own.

Even if you hadn’t heard of the names Raye or Rachel Keen or any of her now history-making music before Saturday, this is a woman who has asserted herself as a name to watch, a voice to listen to and a sight to behold. Right on cue, after her record-breaking night, Raye hit yet another milestone – a total of five billion streams for her songs. In a world where female artists can be contorted into anything by commercially-driven systems far bigger than they are, being themselves – and even more so betting on themselves – is proving to be the sweetest success story of all.

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