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Unpacking Raye’s “Ice Cream Man.”

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It’s a wrap for the 2024 Brit Awards, and Raye made history by becoming the most-awarded artist in a single year, taking home an impressive four awards, including Best British Female Solo Artist, Best British Single, Best British Album, and the highly coveted Best British Artist. Raye is the perfect blend of two artists I love. She has the soulful depth and raw emotion of Amy Winehouse, combined with the genre-defying versatility and dynamic stage presence of Ms. Dynamite.

Watching her accept the award for Best British Artist with her grandma on the stage was a sweet moment but those of us who are familiar with her 21st century blues felt the depth of the “ugly tears” she apologised for crying on stage. She’s been through a lot! Authenticity is a rare and valuable quality in the music industry, and it’s definitely one of Raye’s strongest assets. Her willingness to share her personal experiences, vulnerabilities, and emotions through her music creates a powerful connection with her fans. Her raw talent and genuine approach to songwriting are refreshing and help her stand out.

Trigger warning: this article contains references to sexual assault.  

Almost immediately after the awards aired on ITV, a show, titled “Raye at the Royal Albert Hall,” aired on BBC Two. She performed songs from her acclaimed album “My 21st Century Blues” to a sold-out crowd, showcasing her powerful vocals and emotional songwriting. It was a truly memorable night for both Raye and her fans, as she brought her unique blend of dance, pop, and soul music to one of the most iconic venues in the world.

@cerys.jayne

“Ice Cream Man.” at Royal Albert Hall was one of the prettiest and heartbreaking experiences. One of the loudest audiences i had ever been in fell completely silent as @Raye poured her heart out on the stage. #raye #M21CB #livemusic #orchestra #livealbum #royalalberthall #rayeescapism #thethrillisgone #concerts #london #rayeroyalalberthall #my21stcenturyblues #icecreamman #rayeicecreamman

♬ Ice Cream Man. – RAYE

In a powerful moment during her performance, after stripping down to her underwear on stage to make a powerful statement with her song Body Dysmorphia, Raye chose to sing Ice Cream Man. while still in her underwear, stating that this song makes her feel vulnerable like she’s ‘naked’. Her decision to perform in this way was a courageous act of self-expression and honesty about her experiences. Raye’s Ice Cream Man. is a poignant anthem shedding light on the epidemic that is domestic abuse. The song’s significance lies in its ability to articulate the traumatic experiences faced by survivors and its potential to spark conversations about this critical social issue.

So, this producer hit me up on the DM / He told me, “Hey, I really like what you are doing” / He told me, “Come round to the studio, let’s cook it” / He told me, “Come to catch a vibe and make some music” / But when I got there, should’ve heard what he was saying / Tryna touch me, tryna fuck me, I’m not playing / I should’ve left that place as soon as I walked in it / How God damn dare you do that to me, really? / Coming like the ice cream man / ‘Til I felt his ice-cold hands / And how I pay the price now, damn / God damn, no what the, God damn / Everything you did, it left me in a ruin / And no, I didn’t say a word, I guess that proves it / I’m a woman, oh, yes

Ice Cream Man. by Raye

The Metaphorical Ice Cream Man: The title of the song carries metaphorical weight, symbolising an individual who initially appears sweet and inviting, much like an ice cream vendor. However, as the lyrics unfold, it becomes evident that beneath this facade lies a dark and harmful reality. The metaphor serves to highlight the deceptive nature of abusive individuals as the lyrics depict the controlling and manipulative behaviour which ultimately led to sexual violation. The contrast between the seemingly innocent imagery of an ice cream man and the disturbing experiences described in the song adds depth to the narrative, inviting listeners to reflect on the often concealed nature of domestic abuse.

And I was seven / Was 21, was 17, and was 11 / It took a while to understand what my consent means / If I was ruthless, they’d be in the penitentiary / But all the stress of being honest wouldn’t help me / I pushed it down, but it was living in me rent free / And then I fell into some things that were unhealthy / A place where no one heard me asking them to help me

Ice Cream Man. by Raye

Power Dynamics and Consent: Ice Cream Man. serves as a mirror to the power dynamics inherent in abusive relationships. The song underscores the societal challenges that often silence survivors, examining how gender stereotypes and societal attitudes contribute to the perpetuation of abuse. She talks about “the stress of being honest” alluding to the fear of not being believed, and the unhealthy coping mechanisms she “fell into”. This part of the song emphasises the need to dismantle these norms to create an environment where survivors can feel empowered to speak out.

I wish I could say how I feel, how I felt / And explain why I’m silently blaming myself / ‘Cause I put on these faces pretending I’m fine / Then I go to the bathroom and I press rewind / In my head, always going round and round in my head / Your fingerprints stuck a stain on my skin / You made me frame myself for your sins / You pathetic, dead excuse of a man

Ice Cream Man. by Raye

A Reflection of Trauma and Survival: Raye’s lyrics also provide a raw and unfiltered glimpse into the emotional turmoil survivors face while trying to put on a brave face pretending to be okay. Her narrative captures the cyclical nature of trauma. The haunting portrayal of fear, shame, and self-blame vividly reflects the internal struggles faced by those who have survived abusive relationships.

Coming like the ice cream man / ‘Til I felt his ice-cold hands/ And how I pay the price now, damn, / God damn / Everything you did, it left me in a ruin / And no, I didn’t say a word, I guess that proves it / I’m a woman / ‘Cause I’m a woman / I’m a very fucking brave strong woman / And I’ll be damned if I let a man ruin / How I walk, how I talk, how I do it / Man, I’ve been broken for a moment, I’ve been through it no / It’s even harder to be brave alone / I was a girl, now I’m grown, I’m a woman / A very fucking strong woman, mmh

Ice Cream Man. by Raye

Moving Forward: Empowerment and Healing: While Ice Cream Man. vividly portrays the harrowing effects of abuse, the chorus stands as a powerful declaration of empowerment and resilience. Repeatedly she affirms herself by stating “I am a woman”. Not only is this an affirmation, but it also doubles as a reminder of her strength and bravery. Raye’s anthem champions autonomy and agency and underscores the importance of breaking free from the manipulation and control of her abuser. It aims to shatter the isolation often felt by survivors, assuring them that healing is not only possible but achievable.

I doubt she set out for it to be so but Raye’s Ice Cream Man. serves as a crucial catalyst for raising awareness about domestic abuse. It is a first-person account that does poetic justice to the deeper understanding of the trauma survivors endure, and the societal dynamics that perpetuate abuse. There is a desperate need for continued dialogue surrounding domestic abuse in every corner of society. The music industry is a breeding ground for abuse and is therefore not exempt. Raye’s raw and honest depiction of her truth sends a powerful message of hope and encouragement to survivors, reinforcing that they are not alone.

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