The Work That Made Me: Singer Raylee Forest

As fans around the world enjoy her newest single "Mask", singer Raylee Forest takes us through the songs that made her, shaped her and moved her into the artist that she is today.
Raylee Forest by Johnny Liao
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The Work That Made Me: Singer Raylee Forest

Lately, I stumbled upon an old shared drive tucked away in a corner, containing hundreds of songs I used to listen to as I was growing up. Back then, we had to download songs since Spotify and streaming services weren't around. It was quite a surprise because had completely forgotten about  some of those songs I. But as soon as I hit play, the familiar tunes filled the air, instantly bringing back the feelings I had when I first heard them in my younger days.

It's interesting how these songs, even though I didn't realize it at the time, played a big part in shaping who I am today. While I was growing up, I explored different genres such as classical, pop, R&B, punk, and rock across different cultures, so choosing only eight songs that influenced me the most definitely wasn't easy!

"Mask" - Raylee Forest

It reflects who I am today.

My latest track, "Mask," isn't just a song; it's a reflection of my artistic identity and musical journey. It's like a snapshot of my current creative essence. When you listen to it, you'll notice a fusion of classical elements with a touch of magic. The pleasant melodies will transport you to a grand European ballroom, where elegance and emotion intertwine. You can experience this captivating blend:

"Ballade Pour Adeline" - Richard Clayderman

My early days with piano and classical: like many children in China, I began learning to play the piano at a young age. My parents purchased a collection of piano CDs, which they would play whenever they were tidying up the house or doing chores on the weekends. These melodies, performed by the Richard Clayderman, who is widely known as the 'Prince of Romance', became a familiar soundtrack to my early years. His beautiful music, like a gentle breeze, has left a lasting imprint on my mind.

When I was learning to play the piano, I took on a bunch of classical pieces, like those from Beethoven and Chopin. Back then, I didn't really know how much they were shaping me. It wasn't until I started writing my own songs that I saw their strong influence, with that classical vibe always there in the mix.

"You Raise Me Up" - Westlife

The Irish band Westlife might not be as familiar to the US audience, but they had a huge following in China during the 80s. For many Chinese fans born in the 1970s and '80s, Westlife was their first access to Western pop music. Even though it was a bit before my time, my family always had their songs playing, and they left a lasting impression on me.

The song "You Raise Me Up," originally recorded by Secret Garden, became one of Westlife's most beloved tracks. It holds a special place in my heart as a beautiful, powerful, and inspiring song.

“Hero” by Mariah Carey  

The power of music: I can't recall the exact moment I first heard this song, but it's been a part of my life for a very long time. And I'm not alone – many people around the world still come back to revisit this masterpiece even years later. It's a song with a timeless appeal.

During my younger years, I had a strong admiration for Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston. To me, they are the best singers of all time, and they played a significant role in inspiring me to become a singer today. The emotional power in their songs, especially in tracks like "Hero," is truly indescribable. I found the inner hero listening to this track, and I still do today.

This performance is likely one of the most memorable moments in music history:

“Fú Kuā” (“浮誇” or "Pompous") by Eason Chan

The start of my pop journey: I didn't start listening to pop music until I was older. Cantonese pop, known as Cantopop, was thriving in the 90s and produced many fantastic songs. Many of my friends who don't speak Cantonese can still sing these songs. This is how deeply these songs have impacted our generation. (Luckly, Cantonese is one of my mother tongues, so understanding the meaning behind and singing along weren't difficult for me).

Eason Chan is one of the remarkable singers in this genre. Like many Chinese pop songs, his music often has a slower tempo, but carries a subtle yet strong impact, particularly when you grasp the deeper meaning behind the lyrics. "Fú Kuā," tells the story of someone who feels ignored or neglected, yet still longing for attention. The main character is determined in making an impression to gain recognition, even if it comes across as self-centered or extravagant.

“The Best Damn Thing” by Avril Lavigne

The rebellion... oh, I totally remember this song!!

During my teenage years, I couldn't get enough of Avril Lavigne's music. Her hit 'The Best Damn Thing' was like my anthem – full of that rebellious, carefree spirit. Avril was like that cool friend next door who you could talk about anything with, especially crushes, boys and all the drama!

Her songs were like a burst of excitement, making me want to break free from the usual routine. It was as if her music brought out a different, more daring side of me. When I reminisce about my teenage years and the thrill of rebellion, Avril's tunes are at the heart of those memories.

"Piece Of Me" by Britney Spears

Miss American Dream since 17: if I had a dream, it’d be Britney Spears.

Many people have told me that my debut single, "Tired of Waiting," gives them vibes of Britney's songs. I'm truly honored by that comparison. In fact, I didn't fully grasp the impact her music had on me until I started receiving feedback on my own songs.

From "Everytime" to "Toxic," "If U Seek Amy," "3," and "Piece of Me," her music is a treasure trove. Frankly, it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to pick only one song from her. I remember belting out her songs at karaoke nights with friends, her catchy tunes were like the soundtrack of our good times.

It wouldn't shock me at all if her classic hits start blowing up on TikTok again, attracting new generations of fans. Those songs were crafted with such finesse that they still fit perfectly into today's pop scene.

I picked “Piece of Me”, as this is not only catchy, but it’s also very personal:

"Love for A Thousand Years" (“千年之恋”) by F.I.R

The last but not the least.

Honestly, there are just way too many songs to choose from. I've lost count of all the tunes I've grooved to and the artists I've vibed with (Jay Chow, JJ Lin, you name it!). But amidst this sea of music, one song holds a special place in my heart – Love for A Thousand Years (“千年之恋”) by F.I.R. – because I fell head over heels for it and it's still etched in my memory.

This is a classic example of MandoPop – it's got those poetic lyrics paired with a melancholic melody. As I grew up, I immersed myself in songs like these, and they naturally became a significant influence on my songwriting journey.

Let me share the lyrics with you:

"We endured a thousand years of pain for a single outcome,

The silhouette you left has become my guiding light in the lonely night.

The sorrows of a thousand years, they exist because you await me at the journey's end.

The most exquisite moment, even a lifetime of waiting would be worth it."

Raylee Forest's newest single "Mask", is out now. She can be found on Instagram here and all other major streaming platforms.
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