Into the canon of songs about all-encompassing love that’s followed by heartbreak comes “Love on Repeat”. The warm hiss of analogue synths hints at 80s nostalgia with pulsing sonic waves that sweep one into the current pop landscape but it’s Mikhaela Faye’s vivid vocals that hook you in, to a world of unrequited love and longing. When she sings “Your words go ’round like a broken cassette in my head. My heart is reeling but for you I’d do it all again,” she’s speaking for all the world’s hopeless romantics who warp memories into idealistic fantasies, waiting for the one who got away to finally make their return.
The South African singer, songwriter and producer creates music that draws on the rigour of a Jazz degree but that’s also informed by the punk, rock and hip hop that soundtracked her teenage years, her own explorations into electronica-fuelled dream pop and her sensual, R&B-styled vocal contributions to a number of heavy-hitting homegrown house and hip hop tracks.
In many artists, this unbounded musical playground might risk teetering into a sonic mess, but her recent solo work reveals Mikhaela Faye as a gifted and exciting explorer to follow into the future.
Her 2020 single “Breathe Into My Blue”, for instance, captures a whispered and enthralling vulnerability before unexpectedly moving into the kind of soundscape you might find in a futuristic games arcade. And her latest single, “Love on Repeat” (2021), combines 80s nostalgia with pulsing sonic waves that sweep the track into the current pop moment with an enviable ease.
Ask the Cape Town born-and-bred artist to describe her music and she settles on Alt Pop infused with elements of Jazz, R&B and electronica. Within this, there are four distinct cornerstones that inform her writing process. “There’s ‘satirical, tongue-in-cheek, zero fucks given Faye’, and also ‘I graduated with a degree in Jazz and like to play complicated chords Faye’. But there’s also ‘I’m trying to be pop but just missing the mark Faye’ and I am sensual, sophisticated and electronically curious Faye.”
But for an artist as relentlessly curious as Mikhaela Faye this four-cornered Alt Pop terrain is not the end-of-the story. “My chameleon brain is birthing new Fayes as we speak,” she says of her current-state of mind.