It might seem weird to hail a counterpart just a few months older than oneself as a major influence. Then again, there are very few pop phenomena like Billie Eilish – in the same way that there don’t seem to be many like her budding-musician fan, the doe-eyed Shye-Anne Brown.
Performing under the mononym Shye, the latter emerged on the scene here a year ago when she entered the Vans Musicians Wanted contest (her mum had chanced upon it on Facebook) and took home the top prize – “unexpectedly”, as she says. She was 16, the youngest and – in her words – “least experienced” contestant. (As it turns out, the still baby-faced Singaporean of Chinese-British parentage celebrates her 17th birthday and wears lipstick for the first time – a new matte-finish liquid lippie, no less – on the set of this shoot, which is another first for her.)
Despite her inexperience, the reviews have only been glowing. Coverage of her Vans showcase collectively described her as akin to a veteran – to think that she had only uploaded her first single to Spotify a month before. Since then, she’s gone on to open for the likes of the London-based indie pop band Superorganism and the 21-year-old American bedroom pop sensation Clairo during their gigs here. One would imagine that such burgeoning fame would be even more surreal for the soft-spoken teen when she lets on that it was Clairo who inspired her to start writing music.
Listen to Brown’s tracks and her hazy, mellifluous sound fits like a glove into the rampaging genre of bedroom pop – typically DIY-heavy tunes made with little to no professional equipment or expertise. True to form, she’s self-taught, and writes and produces all her music in her bedroom.
The years spent as a child actress and TV host, and a background in dance and theatre, helped only so much in the art of creating dreamy, offbeat and utterly charming melodies. “A lot of it was trial and error and still is,” she says. “I rely mainly on my auditory sense.”
That said, nobody likes easy labelling – none more so than Gen Z. Ask her to name a genre for her music and she says: “Pop culture today seems very fluid and that really helps. I can explore and experiment more with my sounds without feeling like I have to be a fixed type of musician making a certain type of music.”
And she certainly doesn’t want to be defined by her child-star past. “You know it’s funny how I used to be comfortable growing up in front of the camera. Then puberty hit and along with it came acne,” she says. “People just naturally assume that I’d be an extrovert, but I’d say that I’m more of an introvert, which seems to surprise people. I’m rather shy and awkward, to be honest.”
The Lasalle College of the Arts student is endearingly earnest, almost to a fault. It’s not quite the deadpan style of say, Eilish, but it is symptomatic of the Gen Z craving for the unfiltered; for authenticity. So, what does a Gen Z teenager like her croon about?
“My songs touch mainly on self-worth and self-love, but they’re not necessarily my personal stories,” she says. “I’ve been told that I’ve good observation skills and am a good listener, so I guess that’s how my stories take shape.” (These are besides the tunes revolving around crushes – “I’m still a teenager after all”.)
This month, this teenager will perform at the House Of Vans festival in Hong Kong – just weeks after making her Baybeats debut. It’s early days, but it looks like it’s a matter of time before some aspiring bedroom musician calls her an influence.
Hit the “play” button in the video above to watch a special promotional film for her latest single Momentary, created by Female (yes, it’s our first music video production!) with the support of Chanel. Because, hey, shouldn’t we all #supportlocal, especially when they’re this talented?