Lovelorn and loving it, CHXRL’s new single “Love Me” celebrates sadness

Unrequited love. The one-way street of emotions. A theme so familiar to creative souls that it spurred Romeo to meet Juliet (coining the term ‘rebound’) and Jay Gatsby to fixate on a floating green light.

But it’s exactly here, in the literal waiting room of love, that Johannesburg based singer-songwriter CHXRL finds his bread and butter.

“I find it very easy to write songs that are sparked from sadness, because there’s a lot of room to explore,” he says, quite happily embracing the sad-pop moniker.

“Love Me” is his newest single and it’s the kind of lovelorn anthem that sits snug between a state of fresh heartbreak and whatever you call it when it’s time to delete all the photos of your ex off your phone.

It’s in no way a far stretch for the twenty-two-year-old who just last year penned and produced an EP titled hopeless&romantic. In fact, the threads between single and EP are very visible if you look hard enough, but his newest offering is a far more grown-up take on the subject matter.

Let’s be honest, most songs about unrequited love can easily verge on sappy to say the least. With “Love Me”, however, there’s a bit of fight and a lot of personal growth, mixed with a good dose of longing too.

Drawing from his own experience in a dead-end relationship, CHXRL seems incredibly in-tune with his own emotions and according to him, it’s all due to some unsolicited practice.

“I was in a situation where there was absolutely no communication,” he explains. “I was often looking inward and scrutinising myself to figure out what was going wrong and why?”

Musically you hear this almost instantly. There’s a serene peace to the acoustic guitar that opens the song, while rhythmically the drums lean into a higher energy than you’d expect from the first few bars.

“I’m at a time in my life where I can’t keep repeating the cycle,” he explains about the motivation that fuelled the track. “I’ve grown a lot emotionally, and musically, and I wanted that to come through in the feel of the song.”

And it’s this duality between sad and confident that lends authenticity to his music.

CHXRL has worked with Loki Rothman, Die Heuwels Fantasties and more recently with Milky Chance on their South African tour. His experience has led him to be lauded and applauded by both peers and fans, yet chatting to him you get nothing of the pomp that usually comes with exposure to the limelight.

He chalks it down to the impeccable timing of some less than savoury experiences in his life. A difficult time in high school, a stunted life right afterward due to the pandemic and then, as if to wrap it up with a lovely bowtie, a relationship that leads you to write a song like this.

“I think these experiences allow you to learn a lot about yourself,” he says quite cheerfully. “And with music I’m very comfortable playing the emotions rather than speaking to them.”

Before the interview ends, I ask him if the person he sings about in “Love Me” has heard the song? Somewhat unphased he says, “I don’t know. It’s possible she has, and I doubt she’d be flattered.”

God, I love a good revenge-break-up song.