Amid the bitter breakup anthems and indulgent odes to partying that seem to saturate the modern airwaves, the radio still has some heart—and international songstress Che’nelle is doing her part to keep romance alive in the mainstream.
The subject has always been prominent in the Australian chanteuse’s repertoire: Her 2007 debut single described her falling in love with a DJ, while her latest, “Happiness,” is a bilingual promise of friendship for the subject of her affection.
“A lot of these love songs are very fairy tale-like,” Che’nelle tells Metropolis. “They focus on falling in love, missing each other—thus influencing people to think and believe that this is what love is always like.”
You might say Che’nelle has made it a mission to spread love globally. The singer-songwriter’s work has explored various genres outside her typical pop and R&B turf, including dancehall and reggae, and she takes advantage of her Japanese-English bilingualism to spread her message ever more broadly. She’s also lent her talent to other artists, co-penning heartfelt tunes for the likes of Leona Lewis and fellow Aussie Ricki-Lee.
It’s quite fitting, then, that Japanese fans have crowned her “the princess of love.”
“I think honesty is probably difficult to communicate in Japanese culture, because everyone cares so much about how the other person feels,” Che’nelle says to explain Japan’s predilection for tunes on the sweet side. “So these love songs can either give them hope in the world of love, or give them courage to be honest.”
Born in Malaysia, Che’nelle got her musical start singing in her father’s karaoke bar. She then moved to Perth, Australia at the age of ten, and she attributes part of her success to her international upbringing.
“The ideas that I have would be more limited if I wasn’t exposed to all these different cultures and ways of the world,” she says. “I believe that I adapt so easily into different cultures because I respect and love so much.”
Che’nelle performed with a pop cover band for five years before seriously pursuing music upon graduating high school, when she started writing and producing songs that she uploaded to MySpace. It was there she was discovered and immediately signed to Virgin Records.
“Social media is, to me, a blessing and a curse,” she laughs. “The advantage is that people get to put music up and show it to the world without having to be signed to a label … It’s a do-it-yourself world these days, and people are blessed to be able to do that.”
Seven albums and a slew of singles later, it seems Che’nelle is well on her way to global domination: she’s just finished a video for “Do You Wanna,” a collaboration with Miami reggae artist Shifta; “Happiness” was selected as the theme song to the new Fuji TV drama Dear Sister; she’s working on a music video for her single, “Fierce,” which she describes as an “electro-pop, high-energy dancefloor monster;” and she’s releasing a new J-pop album in 2015.
2014 has also been full of firsts for Che’nelle, who’s now working on a fashion project—though she’s keeping things under wraps for the moment, describing it only as “a really cool apparel project I’ve been developing slowly for some time now.” Dropping a hint, she adds, “This item normally comes in pairs, but with mine, one of them will be all you need to shine bright like a star.”
This year also sees Che’nelle stepping into entrepreneurship with the opening of The Crabby Shack, a restaurant in Brooklyn in which she’s invested. “It’s all about crabs: crab rolls, crab mac and cheese, crab this and crab that—and it’s all bomb!” she raves. “Anyone traveling to NYC, please go check it out. Tell ‘em Che’nelle and Metropolis sent you—you’ll get a special deal!”
Now that she’s got the world in her hands, what’s next for Che’nelle?
“I have no idea,” she laughs. “Maybe I’ll write a book.”
“Whatever I do,” she adds, “I hope it inspires someone to reach for their dreams.”
Check out Che’nelle’s new single, “Happiness,” available Nov 19.
Keep up with Che’nelle:
Check out The Crabby Shack in New York at www.facebook.com/crabbyshackbk