RAYE’s “Escapism” is a journey-style electronic dance track that takes listeners on an night out to escape one’s angst and heartbreak.
Rachel Agatha Keen, known professionally as RAYE, was born on October 24th of 1997 in Tooting South London, where she later moved to Croydon in her teenage years. She began her music career when she was ten years old, being guided by her guitar teacher and her dad. In 2016, RAYE rose to fame after being featured on the singles “By Your Side” by Jonas Blue and “You Don’t Know Me” by Jax Jones. Both songs were certified platinum and the Jax Jones song peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart. “Escapism – Sped Up” became a viral hit on TikTok in 2022, which led it to be her first Top 10 single as a solo artist. The song was co-written by Raye, 070 Shake and Mike Sabath, who also produced it. Raye has been nominated six times in categories such as the Brit Award for Best British Dance Act (2022), iHeartRadio Music Award for Dance Song of the Year (2022), The Headies Award for Best R&B Single (2019), and the Brit Award for Song of the Year (2018, 2021, 2022).
The lyrics are apparent and easy to understand, containing a short yet comprehensible storyline for listeners to follow. RAYE describes how a night out can be a way to escape one’s problems. With hard-hitting lyrics like “The man that I loved sat me down last night and he told me that it’s over. Done decision” or “Last night really was the cherry on the cake. Been some dark days lately and I’m finding it crippling.” To cope with heartbreak, she uses alcohol, drugs and lust but is brought back to reality once the night is over and is left to face her troubles. In order to tell such a provocative story, RAYE mixes rap verses with a melodic chorus, depicting the contrast between having a good time and yearning for that feeling of numbness. Both sections are just as catchy with RAYE proving to listeners that she’s quite the lyricist. In an interview with Clash, Raye revealed that she wrote the song in a log cabin in Utah: “Me and a friend hired a car, and drove up there, in the middle of winter, through the snow and everything! ‘Escapism’ is a story about running away from everything as fast as you can. The lyrics are about just leaving everyone on read, and going out on your own. It came from a messy time, but as humans, we just have to keep surviving!”
The beat in the song is quite fast-paced and is led by a piercing melodic synth that signals to listeners the song’s dark message. It has four beats per bar as a time signature, which allows it to have that rhythmic flow for dance-based music. The production really lets RAYE’s vocals shine through at the choruses where the beat is completely silenced and then reintroduced in her rap verses. This song reminds me quite a bit of a darker, more isolated version of “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” by Katy Perry, as it goes through a whole night of chaos to wake up with a slight sense of regret for the events that occurred that are now a blur. The difference between the two songs is that Perry’s version is more upbeat, adolescent-based while Raye’s is a darker, sadder adult version of isolation, drugs and escaping thoughts. Also, this song is loosely based on Raye’s reality, as she has encountered similar outcomes to heartbreak in her past, making this song more personalized to herself as an artist.
I love that the song shows the beginning, middle and end of the emotional breakdown she encounters. The only part of the song that I feel could have been better written is the last lyric, “I remember nothing, so there’s nothing to regret (uh-huh),” which could be a bad influence for those who may have or may do the same as her. Nevertheless, the song stills stands out from mainstream music nowadays with its use of trip hop production and its length being longer than three minutes and 20 seconds.
Raye’s “Escapism – Sped Up” is an excellent example of the mishaps that can occur through conflicted emotions and the whirlwind of situations that come of it.