No longer ‘Supalonely’ the Kiwi songstress bounces onto the scene with an eclectic debut packed full of cheerful earworms and pining ballads.
For rising New Zealand star Benee (Stella Bennett), 2020 has been a year to remember. Her deliciously catchy breakthrough single ‘Supalonely’, which saw her team up dream pop’s dream boy Gus Dapperton, reached platinum certification in eight countries and became a staple of all of our lockdown soundtracks. But Bennett did not stop there, determined to become more than just a one-stop viral sensation. A string of successful releases including cutesy electro-pop ‘Snail’ and smooth moody alt-pop ‘Night Garden’, produced by Kenny Beats and featuring the UKs own Bakar, kept Benee’s name in everyone’s mouth and her dulcet vocals in everyone’s ears.
Success like this can make releasing an album an intimidating feat but Benee and producer Josh Fountain rise to the occasion creating a dreamy yet fragile blend of alt-pop joy on debut album ‘Hey u x’.
Throughout the course of this thirteen-track debut Benee undeniably cements her place in the alternative star solar system. Track by track she flaunts her shapeshifting range, effortlessly executing a range of genres and holding her own against and enviable roster of alternative icons. Coupling up with heavyweight Grimes on electrifying Drum’n’Bass infused track ‘Sheesh’ before launching us into a realm of dead-pan confidence that’s almost obnoxious with Flo Milli and Lily Allen on ‘Plain’ ‘Whatchu smokin’ thinkin’ I’m replaceable? Moved onto better, I should be thankin’ you’.
Support on this album lends it a fresh sense of versatility whilst keeping Bennett as the centre of her own artistic universe. Her ability to cherry-pick features promises bright things for the launch of her new label Olive. An indication further supported by the highlighting of first recruit Muroki on Frankie Valli infused ballad ‘All the Time’.
Whilst her trademark fun sound creates a smooth familiarity to each song Bennett still manages to draw on her inspirations to create vibrant imagery. Punchy guitar riffs paint a picture of noughties it-girl movies in ‘Kool’, ‘I wish I could be cool like you’ and opening track ‘Happen to Me’ calls upon Radiohead’s ‘Weird fish’ to conjure up anxiety stricken sleepless nights: ‘I think about these things too much My mind likes to wind itself up’. 20-year-old Benee’s stardom manifests in her unphased ability to pen imaginative yet relatable songs which play upon a youthful familiarity.
This charming youthful influence may be this albums defining feature but at times it becomes its worst enemy, crossing the border between youthful to immature writing style and messages in tracks like emotionally shallow ‘Supalonely’ or bitter ‘Plain’ yet in the wider context of the album these lapses become forgiveable and seem to slot into a true reflection of the romantic experiences of generation X.‘Hey u x’ conjures up an emotional journey the listener is enticed into falling in love with, yearning for and trash-talking lovers unknown as Benee carries us through the highs and lows of a long-term relationship in under an hour. Chunky, playful, beats punctuate joyful, charismatic lyrics and Benee lands on her feet embracing her individuality as an artist.