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“This song is a work in progress. Actually, I myself am a work in progress...” That’s how teenage guitar prodigy Melanie Faye captioned the impromptu bedroom performance that would launch her name rocketing across the internet. If you’re surprised by the fact that a minute-long instrumental guitar tune went viral the way it did, you’re not alone; it surprised Melanie, too.
“That video was just supposed to be me in progress,” she said in an interview. “It’s not the end game or all I can do. It was just me letting people know what I sound like.”
Nearly 100k followers later, it’s safe to say she accomplished her goal. Praised for her “divine guitar skills” by Fader, the Tennessee native melds melodic jazz, rhythmic funk, and soulful R&B into an intoxicating and hypnotic blend that belies her young age. While Hendrix comparisons may be an inevitable rite of passage for any brilliant black guitarist, especially one with a stunning look and throwback style like Faye, her music actually shares more in common with Stevie Wonder, commanding your attention through a tender, understated sophistication rather than any virtuosic display of fireworks. She counts Michael Jackson among her biggest inspirations, and it’s not hard to hear hints of Eric Johnson as her fingers glide across the fretboard, but there’s no denying that Faye is a uniquely modern artist: raised a Jehovah’s Witness by chemist parents, she counts R&B star SZA among her earliest fans, and her first exposure to her instrument came through the Guitar Hero video games.
It may be an unconventional origin story, but there’s nothing conventional about Faye, and that’s just the way she likes it.
“If you’re truly great at what you do and believe that you’re great at it, no one can deny your talent,” she says. “Your talent is your power.”
If that’s the case, keep an eye on Melanie Faye. She may be a work in progress, but she’s already well on her way to taking over the world.