Less than a year since her very first live performance at ‘Neck Of The Woods’ on Auckland’s K Road, rising teen pop-sensation Benee just celebrated the release of her highly-anticipated debut EP ‘FIRE ON MARZZ’ in front of a sold-out crowd at the Powerstation on Friday night. This monumental feat has come off a whirlwind year for the up and comer, having graced the lineup of Laneway Festival, opened for Lily Allen at Spark Arena, played both Aroha Nui charity concerts and headlined shows in London, LA and New York.
The adorably quirky Benee is still so new onto the music scene, that she doesn’t even have a proper bio on Spotify or her real name on Wikipedia – yet the crowd at the Powerstation had already donned her classic bucket hat/baggy t-shirt style and memorised every word to a six-track EP that had just come out mere hours prior to the show. ‘FIRE ON MARZZ’ blends alt-pop with an R&B twist, it’s like going to your local dairy and grabbing a $1 mixture – you don’t quite know what you’re going to get every time you put your hand in the bag, but everything that comes out is a delight. If you’re wondering where the title even came from, in true Benee fashion, it’s completely irrelevant to any of the actual music, because each track was too different to sum it up accurately. On first listen, you’re likely to get swept away in the dreamy sonic textures and it’s only when you dive in deeper that you realise how profound the clever lyrical storytelling actually is.
Benee opened the show with the whimsical ‘Tough Guy’, the very first song we ever heard from her, before continuing into the playful new ‘Wishful Thinking’. Both songs explore the themes of vulnerability in both adolescence and romance – the freedom that comes with growing up and easing into adulthood is what makes her songs so relatable. Benee pranced around the stage effortlessly like the human personification of the ghost emoji, with floppy wrists, poking tongues and high kicks. It was clear she was in her comfort zone, crouching down to talk to the crowd every chance she could get, yelling “yeah baby, I see you dancing!’” and “it’s time to be happy peaches”, at one point she even asked if they liked the stickers on her bandmates laptop. She shared an array of cute anecdotes, giving us insight into her inspiration for the new tracks.
Dancefloor filler ‘Glitter’ has quickly become the new fan favourite, as the inspiration behind it came from being doused with the sparkly confetti at a night ending up at K Road’s legendary ‘Family Bar.’ Benee throws in a cheeky tribute to The Crocodile Hunter’s Steve Irwin in unreleased track ‘Snake Charmer’, sampling an almost identical impression of his “don’t try this at home.” She dedicates the gloomy tune to “the snakes out there”, in reference to sly backstabbers who spread other people’s secrets. Another unreleased track, ‘Monster’, is about the time she moved out of her parent’s house, but she only made it as far as their sleepout because she was terrified that somebody may abduct her in the night. She was so frightened she even had her mum sleep with her until she was okay on her own, which was only when she thought to use her talent of songwriting to eliminate the fear – “I turned this evil person outside into this monster. This monster took me in the night but then plot twist, the monster ends up being a good monster that was actually saving me from my house catching on fire.”
The audience being truly captivated by the newly released material made it easy to forget that ‘Soaked’ was the breakout hit that launched her career. And it’s easy to see why the song has been streamed over 20 million times. Singing the words back along with the entire Powerstation population was a thrill and likely the reason behind Benee’s Instagram story caption later that night – “I am so bloody mind blown, the luv was craaaazy, I wanna cry.” Somebody else who shed a tear was none other than her Dad who happened to be standing next to me. At one point during the set he leaned over to tell me how proud he was of her – adorbs!
Her latest single ‘Want Me Back’ saw a slower moment in the set, resting her side-to-side strides for a stool sitdown. It is the most emotional song she’s released to date and showcases maturity beyond her years. It’s about the confusion of trying to get over someone breaking up with you even after they oddly try to stay in touch. The inspiration behind ‘Evil Spider’ came from, well, you guessed it… a spider. RIP Steve – “It was in my bedroom on my windowsill and it was fooking massive. I named it Steve, and I thought it was a dude. And then it had a million babies which I found everywhere in my bedroom. And then Steve died.” Benee’s songwriting intellect shines through here, channelling a song about trying to lure somebody who’s already in a relationship into her web. In ‘Afterlife’ she describes a dream she had where somebody poisoned her and she died. She then dedicated the “diss track” to “the b*tch that killed me in my dream, f*ck you.” The non-conforming to what is considered traditional pop music subject matter is what makes Benee so likeable.
Benee’s level of talent and her ascent to fast-becoming one of pop’s next big hitmakers is undeniable. She’s skipped pop star boot camp and instead celebrates her unconventional confidence and eccentric songwriting by staying true to herself in all forms of her artistry. Whether it’s a song about a spider named Steve, or nearly dying twice in the same dream, it’s Benee’s use of this dark humour blended into synth-licked hooks that are revolutionising her indie-pop soundscape. Her ability to turn her adolescent insecurities of fear, desire and heartbreak into raw moments of pure carefree pop magic is what will continue to propel her into superstardom.
Want Me Back