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In 2021, Raye parted ways with her label after claiming on social media that she had been held back from releasing an album. Now, she is a record-breaking Brits nominee with a number one single and MOBO and Ivor Novello awards under her belt. Here is our interview with the star from January 2023, in which she spoke candidly about the fight to make music on her own terms.

Raye is gaining her power back. Not just from the industry that made her feel “mediocre” for so many years, but over past traumas she kept bottled up for a long time.

“Some of my closest friends didn’t even know some of the stuff I’m discussing on my album,” she tells Sky News. “It’s probably the most honest I’ve been. It’s deep and it’s real.”

Raye, real name Rachel Keen, is only 25 but already a music industry veteran; a platinum-selling performer and a songwriter with credits for everyone from Charli XCX and Little Mix to John Legend and Beyonce.

She was just 15 when she released her first song and 17 when all her dreams came true, in the form of a four-album contract with record label Polydor. But after years of what seemed to be a successful career as a vocalist collaborating mainly on other artists’ dance hits, in 2021 she posted a string of tweets claiming the label was holding her back from releasing her own album.

“I’m done being a polite pop star,” she wrote, her frustration and anger palpable. The singer says after years of “trying to make it work”, she had reached the point where she had nothing to lose. “You get to that breaking point, really.”

Shortly after her tweets, it was announced she and Polydor were parting ways, with the label saying the decision had been “amicable and mutual” and wishing her “all the very best for the future”.

Raye has claimed her first number one with Escapism. Pic: Official Charts
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Raye claimed her first number one with Escapism at the beginning of 2023. Pic: Official Charts

Fast-forward to now and Raye is in a very different place; making music as an independent artist, in January 2023 she topped the UK charts for the first time with viral hit Escapism. The following month, the debut album she fought so hard to make, My 21st Century Blues, charted at number two. No longer pigeonholed or stifled, this is the real Raye, she says, and it’s been a long time coming.

“The album is discussing a lot of different topics… the deepest depths of really ugly stories about assaults and body dysmorphia and environmental anxiety. I think there’s no limit on what I’ve really spoken on in terms of my perspective on my blues as a woman in the 21st Century.”

‘It’s things I’ve been silent about for so long’

Always outspoken, Raye is not an artist who sticks to trotting out lines of approved PR-speak when she’s being interviewed, and this candidness is evident throughout her music. “Being real and transparent is really important to me, to skip out metaphors and similes and cut straight to the point of what I’m talking about,” she says. “Some of these things I haven’t also entirely healed from.

“It’s definitely going to be a rollercoaster for sure, but one that I’m making the decision to go on. That’s kind of the artist I like to be, transparent, honest. I think that’s what I’m like in real life.”

One song, Ice Cream Man, deals with sexual assault. “It’s things I’ve been silent about for so long and swallowed for so long and self-managed for so long in non-constructive ways,” she says.

“I’ve written pretty transparently about sexual violence… multiple things that occur in a life that you just bury, bury down, hide in a box, don’t tell anyone. And it just festers and manipulates itself into something quite ugly.”

As with Escapism, a dark electro banger about using alcohol, drugs and casual sex as coping mechanisms for dealing with emotional pain, the album is a contrast of often melancholy or dark lyrics, with beats that will fill a dance floor, as well as a range of genres.

“You’ve got songs with a contrasting sonic landscape,” she says. “I find it really exciting to tell a story and then the music feel the opposite so I think there’s a lot of juxtaposition there.”

Irony in its ‘most hilarious and ridiculous form’

Escapism’s success feels ironic to Raye. “With the previous music, not in a bad way, but it was more about the song than about the artist. The big dance songs or whatever, they don’t necessarily say anything about me as a person. I never necessarily wanted to be someone who did huge, huge hits, but without depth and substance or discussing things I’m passionate about, or breaking a couple of rules.

“Escapism is such a personal story. It’s kind of dark. It’s extremely explicit and honest and raw… I really told myself on the beginning of this next chapter, I’m not creating music with the intent or purpose to sell loads of copies, it’s about integrity and telling these uncomfortable stories that I think are really important.

“I had all the preparation in the world for building a small, steady fanbase bit by bit, and to not expect anything in terms of mainstream reflection. So this is like irony in its most hilarious and ridiculous form, that this is the biggest song of my entire career.”

Read more on Raye:
‘I was right to back myself’: Raye rises to first number one
Raye speaks out after leaving record label

Despite it not necessarily being the plan, she admits topping the charts does feel like vindication.

“[I feel] like anything is possible and I was right to back myself,” she says. “Never give up on your dreams. For someone who [felt] so, like, mediocre and… such a disappointment, actually, for so long, to just receive all the affirmation in the world that I was right to back my music is just…”

She doesn’t need to finish the sentence. “For someone who puts words together for a living, I don’t necessarily really have the best words to describe how crazy this is.”

‘Fear is the driving factor of secrets’

Emboldened, Raye says artists need to speak out more about the inner workings of the industry. And despite moves to improve diversity and equality making headlines in recent years, she says misogyny is still rife.

“We do need to be telling these stories more,” she says. “I think things that happen in the darkness have so much more power than they do when they’re brought out to the light, you know? Fear is the driving factor of secrets, and truths and stories being withheld. But there is still that very sad view that women need to be guided and controlled and taught and given instructions to follow and meet these requirements.”

She sighs. “I don’t know… I think it’s probably the same for all artists but especially for women, especially for everything I’ve witnessed in 10 years in the industry. I think a lot needs to change, but I don’t think anything will truly be equal and fair until we’ve got the same amount of female CEOs as we do male CEOs, we’ve got the same amount of female staff working a video shoot as male staff, the same amount of female A&Rs, and the same amount of, you know, different ethnicities in these same roles.

“Balance overall is so important, and until we have that, there’s always going to be issues and problems when you have men deciding what they think is best for women.”

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Raye is releasing her debut album, My 21st Century Blues
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‘Seven years old, wide-eyed with a dream’: The album cover for My 21st Century Blues

Raye is looking to the future. She says she has had little communication with her former label bosses since she left, but wants to make it clear it wasn’t all bad. There were “some great people there who really believed in me… but obviously it came down to the big people making big decisions”, she says.

I ask her about the artwork for My 21st Century Blues. It features a little girl, dressed for the workplace but teetering in red stilettos hanging off her heels, standing atop a pile of instruments and recording equipment bearing the names of her songs, grabbing hands reaching out from inside. It feels poignant.

“That’s actually my baby sister on top of that big structure we built,” says Raye. “But that little girl up there is me, you know, seven years old, wide-eyed with a dream, not realising what the next 10 or 15 years of my life would be like.

“All the different life – in the industry and out of the industry – that I’ve had to navigate, process, understand, learn in my transition to being a woman, to being an artist, to being an independent artist. It’s been a real wild journey.”

Raye’s debut album, My 21st Century Blues, is out now

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‘This is the ride of our lives’: Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney celebrate Wrexham promotion

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'This is the ride of our lives': Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney celebrate Wrexham promotion

Ryan Reynolds said he cried “tears of joy” after Wrexham secured a second successive promotion, while Rob McElhenney said he has “no words”.

The Hollywood actors, who took over the Welsh football club in 2021, saw their team seal their place in League One next season with a thumping 6-0 win over Forest Green.

Fans poured onto the pitch to celebrate at the end of the game at the Racecourse Ground.

Wrexham were promoted to the Football League at the end of last season following a 15-year absence, with an open top bus parade which saw tens of thousands turn up to mark the achievement.

Deadpool star Reynolds, 47, wrote on X: “A few years ago, if you told me I would be crying tears of joy over a football match taking place in North Wales, you would be Rob McElhenney.

“Congrats to Wrexham and to my co-chairman in crime. Double up the town! This is the ride of our lives.”

McElhenney, 46, who co-created It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, said he was watching the game from Los Angeles and wrote on X: “No words.” He also posted a heart emoji.

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Wrexham fans on the pitch celebrating promotion. Pic: PA
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Fans poured onto the pitch to celebrate.

While watching the match he had praised striker Paul Mullin, 29, who struck twice in the first half to help Wrexham to a 4-0 half-time lead.

“This may be my favourite goal of his. Not a game winner or anything fancy. Just perseverance, hustle and grit,” he wrote.

“@PMullin7 knows the people in that stadium didn’t pay their hard-earned wage to watch guys give 95%. They deserve 100% and he gives it to them All. The. Time.”

McElhenney previously let Mullin recover at his home after he suffered an injury during a US friendly against Manchester United.

Read more from Sky News:
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Since taking over the club in February 2021, McElhenney and Reynolds, along with their popular Welcome To Wrexham docuseries, have propelled the club into the global spotlight.

In 2022, the pair were honoured by the Welsh Government, the Football Association of Wales and S4C for promoting the country and its language with the Dragon Award.

Reynolds had a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, while the club has seen recent royal visits from the Prince of Wales and the King and Queen.

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‘It’s demeaning’: Sharon Osbourne hits back at Amanda Holden in row over Simon Cowell

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'It's demeaning': Sharon Osbourne hits back at Amanda Holden in row over Simon Cowell

Sharon Osbourne has hit out at Amanda Holden after the presenter appeared to call her “bitter and pathetic” over comments she made about Simon Cowell.

The 71-year-old music manager and wife of former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne said Cowell “doesn’t know how to keep friends” in a conversation with their fellow former X Factor judge Louis Walsh when the pair appeared together on Celebrity Big Brother.

In an article in the Daily Mail, Holden, 53, who is on the judging panel of Britain’s Got Talent alongside Cowell, said: “I hated seeing certain people in a reality show dissing Simon – he’s the person who’s given them all the chances, given them a lot of money and a lifestyle they probably wouldn’t have had.

“It’s bitter and pathetic. It was like Cinderella with her two sisters in the background – just stabby, stabby, stabby.”

Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden. Pic: PA
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Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden. Pic: PA

Osbourne, who has managed The Smashing Pumpkins and Motorhead, responded to the article in a lengthy post on X, writing Holden did not know her “history in the music industry, my achievements, the artists I have worked with, the shows that I’ve produced, and my global celebrity”.

She said whenever she had seen Holden on television she always thought she was “very beautiful and talented” but told her: “Never make comments about my lifestyle given to me by Simon Cowell.

“It’s demeaning to me and my husband and all the achievements I have made in my life as you’re making yourself look like an ill-informed sycophantic.”

Pic: Reuters
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Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Pic: Reuters

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Osbourne, who starred alongside her family in the 2000s reality show The Osbournes and had her own talk show, said her brand is “known worldwide” and she has been “blessed with an amazing lifestyle throughout my entire life”, with a mansion in Beverley Hills and an English country estate.

“I never discuss money, lifestyle, or positions of power,” she said.

“I find it to be classless and crude.

“However, you’ve now forced my hand to divulge these things to you and I honestly don’t want to seem like I’m bragging, but the truth is my money and success were not due to doing a couple of Simon Cowell talent shows.

“Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed doing them at the time as they were great fun.

“Yes, Simon paid me very well. Probably more than what you’re receiving today, but all of that my darling went on a few handbags.”

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But Holden appeared to stand by her comments following Osbourne’s criticism.

A spokesperson told the Mail: “Amanda is aware of Sharon’s incredible career but, just like her, Amanda will always defend those close to her.”

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Shakira announces Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran world tour during surprise Coachella appearance

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Shakira announces Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran world tour during surprise Coachella appearance

Shakira has announced an upcoming world tour during a surprise performance at Coachella 2024.

The Colombian singer shocked the crowd as she rose from a platform during the set of Argentinian DJ Bizarrap to perform their new track, La Fuerte.

During the performance, the extravagant backdrop on the Sahara stage switched to say “Shakira, Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran World Tour”.

The Hips Don’t Lie star said: “Finally, we are going on tour. Starting here, this November in this city, can’t wait. Couldn’t ask for more.”

Bizarrap, left, and Shakira perform during the the first weekend of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Friday, April 12, 2024, in Indio, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
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Shakira appeared during a set with Argentinian DJ Bizarrap. Pic: AP

Bizarrap, left, and Shakira perform during the the first weekend of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Friday, April 12, 2024, in Indio, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
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It’s her first tour since 2018. Pic: AP

Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran, released last month, is the 12th studio album from the singer and first in seven years.

It tracks the singer’s transition from heartbreak to resurgence, and was inspired in part by her break-up with former Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique.

The 47-year-old had teased the announcement in an Instagram post a day before her appearance. Translated from Spanish it said: “The wolf is coming.”

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In a later post, she confirmed the world tour and was “stoked” to be “celebrating with my wolfpack”.

Shakira’s last tour was in 2018 following the release of her album El Dorado.

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Coachella is taking place over two weekends from 12-14 April and 19-21 April and features headline performances from Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat, Tyler, the Creator and a No Doubt reunion with Gwen Stefani.

Festivalgoers are seen during the the first weekend of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Friday, April 12, 2024, in Indio, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
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The yearly festival takes place in the Colorado Desert. Pic: AP

Lil Uzi Vert performs during the the first weekend of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Friday, April 12, 2024, in Indio, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
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Lil Uzi Vert was also one of the acts. Pic: AP

The renowned annual festival is held in the Colorado Desert and will also see London rock band Blur and South Korean DJ and singer Peggy Gou take to its stages.

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