New Zealand indie-pop musician BENEE, released her debut album, “Hey U X,” Friday, solidifying her position in the music industry as an artist of depth with her creative exploration of themes like budding romances, fear of being stalked and idolization.
BENEE, born Stella Rose Bennett, initially began releasing original music on the online audio distribution platform SoundCloud in 2018. After quickly gaining an audience, she dropped her debut EP, “Fire on Marzz,” in June 2019. She won Best New Artist at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards. “Hey U X” showcases enticing collaborations with artists like Mallrat and Barkar, further establishing Bennett as an artist worth listening to.
“Happen To Me” opens the album with a ‘90s-inspired guitar rhythm, soft drums and Bennett’s signature monotone vocals. The track delves into her anxieties and fears, imagining a fatal plane crash and a bedroom catching on fire. The lyrics, “I think about these things too much / My mind likes to wind itself up,” are all too relatable for over thinkers like myself.
The vibrant “Same Effect” offers an electronic escape into a lush production of synthesizers and keyboard progressions. While the track’s beat promotes a positive aura, its lyrics did the opposite: “Now I want you, I’m sick of bein’ alone / Lyin’ ‘round here, and you’re all that I want.”
“Sheesh [Feat. Grimes],” incorporates hard-hitting, pulsing drums, aggressive auto-tune and heavy bass. The track has an experimental tone and a fast-paced, bouncy beat which kept me engaged and excited for the rest of the album’s offerings.
“Snail,” which was originally released in August, has a simple yet pleasant vibe I enjoyed. Using a minimal beat adorned with airy backing vocals, the track’s narrative is centered around the life of a snail. The lyrics “I’m like a snail, you’re a guy / Kind of mad I can’t fly” are catchy enough to excuse their lack of depth.
More mysterious, “Kool” offers a funky assortment of cymbal clashes and velvety bass lines. Bennett’s flatly spoken verses work well with the track’s ad-libbed chorus: “I’m not really cool (Yeah) / It sucks, I suck, I want to be like you (You’re cool).” Contrasting with its experimental production, the track offers grounded and relatable lyrics.
“Winter [Feat. Mallrat],” was one of my favorites from the album, showcasing groovy guitar riffs and layered keyboard progressions. Australian artist Mallrat introduced a deep electronic undertone that I thought brought Bennett out of her indie-pop sweet spot. The track seamlessly transitions back and forth between Benne and Mallrat’s vocals, creating a care-free vibe I loved.
“A Little While” tells the story of riding in the car with a new love interest — a position many of us can relate to.The lyrics “Drivin’ inside your car / You put your hand around my heart” are so simple yet so profound. The track’s production, lackluster in comparison to its lyrics, oscillates between a slow kick drum and monotonous guitar loop.
“Night Garden [Feat. Kenny Beats & Bakar]” immediately gave me reggae vibes, incorporating booming drums paired with mellow vocals which describe the artist’s fear of being stalked. The track’s jumpy pace and spooky, mysterious tone matches its lyrics perfectly: “A man is out there in the trees / Think that’s the reason I can’t sleep / I see him lurking in my dreams.”
BENEE truly surprised me with “Hey U X,” in which she breaks the indie-pop mold her previous work set for her and shows obvious growth as an artist.