Track Review: Genesis // Raye

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It feels like an understatement to label Raye’s recent release, ‘Genesis’, a song. The ‘Escapism’ artist herself opts to describe it as a musical composition. Raye’s ability to seamlessly blend anecdotal stories with wider societal issues is an attribute that enables her to stand out amongst her musical peers. The many layers of ‘Genesis’ make it hard sum up succinctly but, amongst the poignant lyricism, genre blending and heavenly vocals, one thing is clear: Raye wants some light in the world. Throughout she pleads, “Let there be light”.

‘Genesis’ comes off the back of Raye’s record-setting triumph at the Brit’s. It is her first release since her Brit-winning and Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, My 21st Century Blues. The seven minute composition is split into three parts with each focusing on a different genre. The single’s production is something to applaud as the transition between each is faultless.

Backed by impeccable harmonies and angelic strings, the all-consuming nature of social media is addressed in part one: “Cause I’m busy on my phone observing everyone else / How I compare and obsess / Just me, my phone and these walls”. These observations evidently hinder Raye’s self-image as she relies on “Facetune and ring lights”. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are full of idealistic and unattainable images – psychologically, this can take a toll on people and Raye appears to be no expectation. She utilises the imagery of a “devil on [her] shoulder” to represent the negative voices and self-doubt. 

In part two, we move to R&B as Raye focuses introspectively on her self-destructive tendencies, perhaps caused by her aforementioned issues with social media. Whether it’s “a fistfull of pills”, “a bottle of whiskey” or “a cocktail for a quitter”, it’s obvious Raye has her coping mechanisms. This inclination to rely on alcohol and pills is alluded to on My 21st Century Blues, allowing the two projects to be interlinked. If there’s any doubt why Raye relies on these coping mechanisms, the visceral imagery employed to describe depression highlights its overpowering nature: “Since you are already so acquainted, you skip the foreplay / He grips you at the neck as you prepare to be screwed”. Raye is able to shine in the lyrical aspect of her music. Undoubtedly, she will forever be commended for her songwriting, she is unafraid to be honest and candid.

As the jazz-infused third part of the song is reached, Raye looks more outwardly as she considers injustices facing others in society: “fathers”, “teachers”, “builders” and “cleaners” all get a mention. But, a special shoutout goes to “the nurses and the doctors” as Raye exclaims, “God bless the NHS”. This could be a reference to the recent industrial action in the UK as she also references pay throughout the verse: “Let the pay rise”, she repeats. Raye has referenced a Nina Simone quote as inspiration for the piece (“It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times”), showing her aim to reflect topical issues- It’s a beautiful sentiment.

One thing repeated in each part is references to wanting light: “Let there be light”. This would seemingly be a biblical reference. The new release’s title is the same as the first book in the Old Testament. Within this book (specifically Genesis 1:3) is the quote: “And God said ‘Let there be light’, and there was light” – Raye wants hope for the injustices in the word. 

Overall, ‘Genesis’ is a phenomenal release. Being only in June, it might be pre-emptive to declare a release Song Of The Year but ‘Genesis’ is definitely a contender. Not only are the lyrics poignant but the production impeccably flows between genres. From gospel and R&B to jazz and big band, Raye can do it all. ‘Genesis’ showcases this incredible range.

Words by Connor Franks


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