Charlene Kaye is a New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, who spent her childhood in some rather far-flung places across the globe — living in Hawaii, Singapore, Hong Kong and Michigan before she turned 18. Although she spent time in a number of different places throughout the bulk of her childhood, there was one consistent thing: her parents old soul records and 90s grunge radio, both of which have heavily influenced her own work and career.
Initially starting her career as a solo artist, Kaye is best known for a five year stint as the frontwoman of acclaimed indie act San Fermin, contributing to 2015’s Jackrabbit and 2017’s Belong, which were supported with touring internationally, including sets across the global festival circuit. While touring with San Fermin to support Jackrabbit, Kaye started her latest solo recording project KAYE, releasing a handful of singles and KAYE’s debut EP 2016’s Honey.
Last year, Kaye left San Fermin in order to fully concentrate on her solo career. The New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer begins 2020 with the Kirk Schoenherr-co-produced single “Closer Than This.” Centered around Kaye’s sultry cooing, layers of synth arpeggios, thumping beats, a fiery guitar solo and an infectious, radio friendly hook, “Closer Than This” is a bold, self-assured feminist pop anthem that sounds indebted to 80s synth funk and synth pop — in particular, Cherelle, Patrice Rushen, Madonna and Control-era Janet Jackson. And at its core, the song touches upon lust, desire, longing, idealization and fantasy and self-preservation, as it features a narrator, who will only give on her terms.
“There are a lot of narratives in much about women expressing their longing for commitment and relationships, but I had a specific experience where that wasn’t the case. I think women especially are sold this idea that if they’re not giving constantly, they’re innately bad,” Kaye explains in press notes. “This song is about a time when I didn’t want to give to anybody but myself.”
Directed by Kaye’s sister Lianne Kaye, the equally sultry video sees Charlene Kaye take on a boldly dominant role, where we see her take the lead in her relationships, essentially using the men in the video for her own pleasure. “The concept was originally inspired by Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’ video where the people in this creepy house are seen mostly by way of their limbs and physicality,” Kaye explains. “Our video features me keeping these four men in captivity—they’re giving me lap dances and letting me have my way with them and I’m using them for my own pleasure, basically. Liann [Kaye, who directed the video] and I liked that gender-swap idea, where in so many hip hop videos you see rappers with these video girls giving them lap dances and doing whatever the man wants. We wanted to flip that visual and show people a powerful woman in control instead.“