New Zealand starlet BENEE, aka Stella Bennett, has delivered her highly anticipated debut album Hey u x.
Hey u x has been long awaited, with many of BENEE’s tracks already forming the soundtrack to our socially distanced 2020. Excitement for her debut album grew when the track listing was revealed, boasting collaborations with high profile artists like Grimes, Lily Allen, Mallrat, and Flo Milli. Adding to the ever-increasing momentum was her recent sold-out headline tour across New Zealand that ended with two fully packed Spark Arena shows. 2020 has been BENEE’s year, with her already achieving so much before the album drop.
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Before the album release, fans already had their hands on a number of tracks, from the record-breaking Tik Tok sensation ‘Supalonely’, to fan favourite ‘Snail’, and most recently, the pensive ‘Happen To Me’ – just to name a few.
Come release day and BENEE shared her gratitude and nerves with fans via Instagram.
“I hope you guys love it, it means so so much to me.. and I’m really freaked out that it’s in the world, but it’s out there and I can’t take it back so… I really hope you like it”
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Although there’s a mixture of sounds explored throughout the album as BENEE pushes the boundaries, her lovable quirkiness comes out in each track and the album ebbs and flows in a natural, conversational way. Always surprising fans, the track ‘Sheesh’ with legend Grimes (who contributed on both vocals and production) has a bass influence that you could easily play before a night out.
Production is a highlight throughout Hey u x, with BENEE working with long-time producer Josh Fountain. Influences of jazz, funk, pop, garage, and reggae are heard throughout and are done so tastefully that the final result is a futuristic and fresh blend of immediately captivating music.
Other highlights are ‘Kool’, a pop track with garage-grunge influences that sound like the epitome of BENEE as an artist – fun, loud, and incredibly danceable. ‘Winter’ with Mallrat is an atmospheric, ambient, and self-reflective number from two artists who were seemingly destined to collaborate. Later tracks like ‘Night Garden’ with Kenny Beats & Bakar and ‘All The Time’ with Muroki have a lazy-day-in-the-sun vibe with a melodic jazz influence as BENEE breezes through dreamy lyrics like ‘I’m spaced out all the time’.
Young romance runs its course throughout the album, from the highs to the lows. ‘If I Get To Meet You’ is a sweet song about the intoxicating uncertainty at the beginning of a romance, while ‘Plain’ with Brit pop queen Lily Allen and Atlanta Rapper Flo Milli is a sassy yet sad number that’ll resonate with all the romantically disillusioned out there.
The final track ‘C U’ is the perfect closer, a peaceful track driven by soft guitars that paints beautiful imagery of nature both lyrically and sonically. ‘C U’ feels like hazy escapism at its best as BENEE quietly reminisces on a beautiful weekend that she knows has to come to an end eventually.
While she’s loved for her upbeat music and personality, more sombre tracks like ‘Happen To Me’ deal with loneliness and anxiety, challenges we can all relate to in what’s been a very weird year. The twenty-year-old doesn’t shy away from life’s tougher topics such as mental health, and this healthy dose of vulnerability throughout the album injects a breath of fresh air.
More nuanced than just happy and sad songs though, Hey u x presents a spectrum of emotions, painting BENEE as an increasingly multi-faceted artist. The songstress often returns to themes of overthinking and loneliness that can be heard throughout the tracks, from the quiet musings on ‘A Little While’ to easy listening yet heartbroken ‘Same Effect’. Hey u x gives listeners some real insight into the ‘Beneevision‘, transporting us to a dreamy new world full of the starlet’s isolated daydreams.
A rising star in the era of TikTok and Instagram fame, BENEE’s wide repertoire of sub-genres and cool-girl vibe make it easy to draw comparisons to her visionary peers (like Lorde or Billie Eilish), but it’s clear with these thirteen tracks that she has found her unique voice in today’s oversaturated musical landscape. At such a young age it’s impressive to see BENEE have such a strong sense of self coming through on her debut record. Despite the self-deprecating quips she sings about herself, if anything Hey u x just reaffirms how insanely cool our New Zealand gem is.