Che’Nelle’s Conquered Japan, U.S. Next
International Pop artist Che'Nelle Lim, simply known as Che'Nelle, obviously has no fear of tackling the music industries in highly populated markets. After Platinum and Gold sales status in Japan, the MySpace discovery has entered the U.S. market for a second time.
Her attempt at releasing music 6 years ago in the States with her debut album "Things Happen For A Reason" (Virgin Records) was not a failure by any standard, just a bigger success in Japan being certified gold and winning Concept Album of the Year (2007) in that country.
And as the album title speaks, things happened for a reason.
That reason was that Che’Nelle, by her own account, was not quite sure how she wanted to present herself to the U.S. The Malaysian-born singer goes on to say, "It’s taken me this amount of time because, honestly, I’ve been finding myself over this time".
After solidifying star status in Japan with four Japan Gold Disc Awards (Grammys equivalent) to her credit, she is now ready to conquer America. Signed to Pitbull’s Mr. 305, Inc. label, Che’Nelle re-enters the U.S. market with a vengeance in her first release year in 6 years "It’s Happening Again." The song’s music video is a testament to Che’Nelle’s ability to bring different genres and cultures together with its diversity and universal love theme. Now a Los Angeles resident, Che’Nelle is poised and ready to take on America.
Before heading out on a mini club tour to promote the Billboard dance charted single "It’s Happening Again," I caught up with Che’Nelle to chat about her absence from the music scene in America for the past 6 years, the message of "universal love" behind her new single’s music video, the creativity behind her upcoming mixed tape, and why her music is as diverse as she is.
Time is now
BeBe: You are currently re-entering the U.S. market with your latest single ’It’s Happening Again,’ so to speak. Your first album Things ’Happen For A Reason’ was released in the U.S., along with, Australia and Japan back in 2007. That’s 6 years since in the music market stateside. During that time, however, you’ve had success internationally, particularly in Japan. Why has your marketing strategy shifted back to the U.S. now?
Che’Nelle: When I was signed 6 years ago to Virgin Records in New York, Japan was so into my music. Back then, we were trying to figure out what we would do here in the States. It took off so quickly in Japan. I knew there would be a time that I would could come out (musically) here, but I just didn’t know quite how... the look I wanted, the image I wanted to portray. It’s taken me this amount of time because, honestly, I’ve been finding myself over this time. I’m giving you me, and not just some gimmick that’s not real.
I’m at a place where I’m really comfortable in my skin. I know exactly what it is that I want. I’ve been creating a lot of music in the studio over the past couple of years, so it just makes sense now. I’d like to create music in a place that I live in (laughs).
Diversity on all fronts
BeBe: Well, you have had a presence on the U.S. charts because you have co-written some music for other artists, such as Leona Lewis’ hit ’Can’t Breathe.’ But now, you are attempting to do what you have done in Japan as a vocalist here in the States with ’It’s Happening Again,’ a very catchy and feel good song. And talking about creating an image... yes, you are definitely beautiful and sexy, but the message you are talking about in the song’s video is ’universal love.’ You have girls kissing each other, boys kissing each other, and an interracial couple as the main characters in the music video. Everyone represented in the video is feeling good about who they are. Visually that’s saying a lot. Was the video concept your idea?
Che’Nelle: When I first started working with the director (ELY with Menagerie Film), he threw out a few ideas. I said okay (to) sexy, okay (to) club, but I needed something else to represent me. I am a product of so many different cultures. I was born and raised in Malaysia. I grew up in Australia, and I now live in Los Angeles where everything is so diverse. So, I wanted variety. I wanted color, interracial and sexual diversity going on. I love what you have said, BeBe, about the video. Everything you said is what I wanted people to get out of the video. It wasn’t just a cool idea, no. I really wanted something that represented my world. The song is about falling in love again, finding yourself and putting yourself back out there. Life for me, I am coming out again in music with this universal song.
BeBe: Did you write the song?
Che’Nelle: I actually did not. But, I fell in love with the song when I heard it.
Testing the waters
BeBe: I know you are testing the waters here in the States with ’It’s Happening Again.’ But, after the release of its great music video in late September (the song was actually released in May of 2013), the song has picked up Billboard chart traction.
Che’Nelle: Yes, it debuted on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Chart at #50 (Sept. 9, 2013). I was excited about that.
BeBe: are you planning to release another full-length album here in the U.S.?
Che’Nelle: That is the plan, but it is coming to the end of the year, and I won’t rush to put anything like an album out before the end of the year. However, I am coming out with a 5-song mixed tape. And, I’m so excited because I am doing something different by releasing all the songs together in a storyline music video. I wanted to do something that would be memorable by putting it out in that way. So, snippets of the songs will be put in an order that creates the storyline.
BeBe: Wow! That’s a first. I’ve never heard of that before. What a great idea, particularly for an EP or mixed tape where you only have 4-5 songs. Are the songs on this mixed tape of the same music genre (dance) as ’It’s Happening Again?’
Che’Nelle: It will be a mixture (of genres). Just like ’It’s Happening Again’s’ video has a diversity of people, different races and all that, my music is not just one thing. I am a pop artist overall, but pop is a mixture of so many different genres. The mixed tape has a pure pop-like song, a R&B feel song, a dance song, and then an EDM-type song. However, they all mesh well together. Nobody does one genre anymore.
BeBe: Well everything is re-mixable anyway. I mean Whitney Houston’s ’I Will Always Love You’ was originally a country tune-turned-pop ballad remixed into a dance chart topper. That right there let’s us know there is no limitation in a genre for a song anymore.
Che’Nelle: We are just in an era where people are more open to music. Nowadays people have all kinds of music on their iPods.
Che’Nelle is currently on a mini club tour in California making performance stops in the following cities:
Oct. 11; San Francisco, CA; Boy Bar @The Cafe
Oct. 12; San Francisco, CA; ShangriLa @The EndUp
Oct. 18; West Hollywood, CA; GameBoi @RAGE
Che’Nelle’s current single "It’s Happening Again" is now available on iTunes.
For updates on the release of Che’Nelle’s upcoming mixed tape, and her performance dates, follow her at www.facebook.com/iamchenelle
Watch Che’Nelle’s video to "It’s Happening Again":
As an actress, BeBe was introduced to film with a lead role in the independent film "Under One Sun" with her character dealing with religious, racial and gender issues. Additionally, she appeared in the campy musical "Devious, Inc" (Australian Film Festival, San Francisco Short Film Fest) also adding additional vocals to the musical soundtrack. Both of these performances led to her selection for a lead role in Aisha Media’s next short film series, "Con-tin.u.um" to be released in 2012.