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Jenny Brough

Five on it: shout out Raye for exposing music industry nonsense

A thread from the singer makes it clearer than ever that record labels need to do better by their talent. Plus a round-up of this week’s new releases, including Shygirl, Rico Nasty and more.

02 Jul 2021

We’ve spoken multiple times about how the business end of the music industry can impact an artist’s mental health and wellbeing. There are many extreme elements in music that can begin to drag an artist down, be that in regards to overworking or even Britney’s ongoing struggle with her conservatorship. Setbacks and injustices can dull self-esteem to the extent where you begin to question whether there’s any point in challenging the status quo. 

On Tuesday night, British singer-songwriter Raye shared a stream of tweets that detailed a difficult relationship with her record label, Polydor Records, and the emotional pain she felt at the lack of support she’d received from them, despite signing a four-record album deal. Posting a tear-streamed selfie, the 23-year-old artist said, “For the last seven days I have woken up crying my eyes out, not wanting to get out of bed and feeling so alone. These are emotions we usually hide from social media and I have become such an expert at hiding my tears and my pain and I wanted to talk about it today”.

“Whether Raye remains with her label or is finally allowed to break free, we hope that she can negotiate a resolution that provides her with an element of peace – and agency over her craft”

Raye went on to say that, despite having been signed to the label since 2014 – a whole seven years – and having “albums on albums of music sat in folders collecting dust, songs I am now giving away to A-list artists”, she was still waiting to release her debut LP. As a business, record labels release investment money to acts they believe are financially viable prospects, but in her case – despite having released multiple singles and a 2020 mixtape, Euphoric Sad Songs – Raye was still waiting to be considered a safe bet. As an artist tied into a four-album record deal with no movement, she felt like she had nothing left to lose. 

The following day, Raye took to Instagram Live in defiance and played a clutch of unreleased tracks – a few of hundreds – including surefire disco smash ‘Fantastic’ and the piano-led ‘Buss It Down’, as well as breaking down into tears as she discussed the situation. Her sadness was palpable. In the time since, Charli XCX and MNEK have tweeted in support of Raye’s situation, the latter writing he was: “v v tired of this industry clipping the wings of talented people of colour and driving them to LOSE CONFIDENCE in what got them here in the first place. it’s not cool, and something needs to give”. 

As MNEK comments, the disconnect and exploitation present in artist-label relationships are longstanding – and only a few manage to successfully push back. Even acts as lofty as Frank Ocean, TLC and Megan Thee Stallion have been undercut by middle men and red-tape in pursuing their art. And we’ve all heard about Prince turning his name into a symbol to circumvent the restrictions of his Warner Records deal. Whether Raye remains with her label or is finally allowed to break free, we hope that she can negotiate a resolution that provides her with an element of peace – and agency over her craft.

And now, this week’s releases:

Shygirl – ‘BDE’ (feat. slowthai)

First dropped during her BLU livestream earlier this week, Shygirl’s ‘BDE’ is as packed full of cocksure confidence as you’d expect. Throw a ladleful of thirst into the mix of clattering beats and chunky bass (plus a more low-key turn from a sizzling slowthai) and it’s undoubtedly a bop.

Rejjie Snow, Tinashe & grouptherapy – ‘Disco Pantz’

Taken from the Irish talent Rejjie Snow’s upcoming third album Baw Baw Black Sheep – set to drop next week‘Disco Pantz’ sees him dip into dreamy funk and disco for an outing that is irresistibly addictive. Teaming up with Tinashe and LA rap-pop collective grouptherapy, the track is a colourful slow jam perfect for winding down the small hours of the evening.

LVRA – ‘Nightmare’

Scottish-Chinese talent LVRA has been bubbling up for a while, but ‘Nightmare’ is undoubtedly her most succinct and confident release to date. Packing an experimental edge into its blistering electro-pop, eerie synths and chunky beats capture the dread and anxiety of insomnia. Think Billie Eilish meets Charli XCX and you’ll be in the right place.

BEKA – ‘You Got’

Hot on the heels of her EP I’ll Be There, BEKA’s latest release ‘You Got’ was directly inspired by Kamala Harris’ landmark appointment as Vice President of the United States and “imagining the parents who have gone out to protest for these moments, sometimes having to leave their kids at home not knowing if they’d be safe and thinking about the last things they’d want to say to their children”. Fittingly, the track is all bright, euphoric pop and catchy melodies that perfectly showcase BEKA’s own sweet tone. 

Rico Nasty – ‘Magic’

The first single to be shared from forthcoming collection Rx, ‘Magic’ shows a different side to rapper Rico Nasty. Having made a name for herself with her relentless delivery, the new single is distinctly one of her more understated tracks; all warm, summery R&B, pop melodies and an unexpectedly chilled atmosphere.