The world is changing significantly and Bayje is all for it. In fact, as evidenced in the poignant, coming-of-age tale, “Graceland,” from her debut album, this 19-year-old singer/songwriter embraces change, detests conformity, and challenges the status quo. “I worked everyday for it/I gave up my fun for it/Didn’t think twice/Cause you know I paid the price,” she sings to former friends who once shared her ambitions, but opted instead for complacency and sameness. “In Syracuse, there are girls who wanted to move on and pursue careers, but they fell for a guy, had kids and are now stuck there,” she says. “It’s sad because we are no longer friends, and they feel a certain way about me. We all have opportunity.”
Bayje’s (pronounced “Beige”) day-to-day challenges in life, and the conflicting and often confusing thoughts that go with them, fuel her creativity. Her songs—all personal and mostly co-penned—range from pop-peppered mid-tempos and spirited ballads to rousing dance-floor ditties and thought-provoking soul. Young and beautiful, she could have easily hopped aboard the formulaic, radio-as-usual bandwagon; instead, she eschewed the expected and delivers authenticity. “Bayje is a talented singer/songwriter,” says renowned music executives Kevin Liles and JoJo Brim, who signed the outspoken artist, adding “Her music is a reflection of her life experience.”
“I should have really been a confused kid,” says Bayje. “My dad was into Roger Troutman and Zapp and Rick James, while my mother blasted Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin, Biggie Smalls, and Tupac.” Her upbringing was just as chaotic and eclectic as her parents’ musical tastes. As the child of a Caucasian mother and African-American father, and growing up in a less than diverse neighborhood, she was commonly taunted and teased for her tanned skin and curly Afro. “A lot of kids would pick on me because of my race, so my mother gave me the nickname ‘Beige’ to ease racial tension, even though that was a little over my head at the time,” she remembers. “I was a little weird in a school where everyone had blond or ruby-streaked hair and was thinner. But I loved the fact that when the kids asked me on the playground, ‘What are you?’ and I would say, ‘Beige,’ they would get confused. So, when it was time to pick a stage name, (since her given name, Brittany, was a little too close to a certain infamous pop singer) there is no better name than Bayje—with my own twist.”
After winning a local radio station’s karaoke contest, she thrust herself into the local music scene and performance circuit, eventually securing Bill Herndon of OSMG/ESP in New York City as her manager. After four years of beating the pavement and dealing with the struggle of trying to land a record deal, she eventually found a home at Atlantic Records. Other industry notables have taken notice and are singing her praises.
“The first time she sang for me she sang a cappella and I was like, ‘Wow!’” declares music mogul Andre Harrell, who discovered Mary J. Blige. “The way she was able to flow her melody with no music was incredible. She has a sense of rhythm that’s crazy.”
Naturally rebellious—a trait reflected in her music and life—she has faced a few bumps and hurdles during her trek, but they have served as learning experiences and fodder for material. “Mistakes can be a blessing. When I turned 18, I began to sit back and say, ‘I have seen this before. I know where this goes. I am not going to go there.’ From 14 to 16 years old, if I saw it before, I would do it anyway. But, I can definitely say that I have changed a lot as I have gotten older.”
Bayje’s music and lyrics betray her age. Bursting with emotion and hope, her multi-octave voice delivers a realism that intersects genres and genders. “My music is pain, happiness, devastation, and desperation. It’s a 100% reflection of who I am.” Insistent on realness, Bayje co-wrote almost half of her album, a feat she is both proud of and humbled by. “I realize that a lot of new artists don’t get the luxury of writing songs on their first album, but my team has known me since I was a kid, and we pushed hard for it.”
Bayje’s resilience and drive are stamped all over her songs. “Find a Way,” produced by Stargate, is a groove-infused story of self-discovery. “It’s fun and versatile,” she says of her first single. “No matter if I am feeling trapped or frustrated, I can play it and I feel like I found a way out.” To underscore the importance of the message in “Find A Way,” Bayje has created an online PSA campaign entitled “Find Your Way to Extraordinary” that will provide a platform for teens to network and share how they have been able to deal with the different issues in their lives.
Stargate, responsible for gargantuan pop hits over the years such as Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and Ne-Yo’s “Closer”, believes that her unique gifts separate her far from the pack. “Bayje is the rare kind of artist that can go from R&B to rock to pop with no effort,” says the Norwegian production duo. “Her voice is filled with character and is instantly recognizable. She is a star in the making.”
“Preach” displays her displeasure for ultimatums and one-sided direction. She respectfully disregards parental advice as to whom she should date on the defiant, hip-hop tinged track (“I did what I was supposed to do/Waited till I got older/I’m not a little girl/I can do what I wanna do now”). “All teenage girls have had that boyfriend who mom did not like,” she says. “It’s also relevant for those women who married men who their mothers disliked. It’s pretty much telling your parents to shut up without the disrespect.”
Despite her tender age, she has experienced the pangs of heartbreak, which she addresses on the intensely personal “Still in Love.” “It was written about someone who no matter what, I will always love. For everyone else, it’s going to be about their special someone, their first, or someone who has passed away. It’s about having that unbreakable connection.”
Bayje’s style and substance rise above the status quo. Whether she’s singing about the unrealistic physical expectations placed on women (“Heavy Rotation,” produced by Scott Storch), or protesting against animal cruelty in her spare time, she executes it all with integrity. “Bayje is a star and a true artist,” says hit producer Tricky Stewart, who produced Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” “You never know what you’re gonna get but you know it’s gonna be hot.”
Now that she’s taken the industry by storm, she is ready to unleash her matchless brand of soulful pop into the world. And just as the world has transformed, so has she. “I rebel in a different way now. It’s not to act out or party. It’s about remaining steadfast in who I am and being empowered. I want to be honest and have people get to know the real Bayje.”