Benee - hey u x

The Quietus

If you are aged between 16-28 and currently have an internet connection, you’ve probably heard BENEE. No really, you have. ‘Supalonely’ has been one of TikTok’s Summer 2020 success stories, amassing billions of streams and sparking off a (deceptively difficult, FYI) dance craze. Not to be a dad about this, but BENEE is 20 years old –- what must it be like to be twenty and to see J-Lo and her brood goofing around to your track? To see it soundtracking Jason Derulo cinematically dunking an oreo? To see supermodel Emily Ratajkowski, working her way through the semaphore-esque dance moves so lifelessly that a tweet called her ‘CEO of not getting the beat’?

In the taxonomy of TikTok bops, ‘Supalonely’ falls under the category of sweet, off-kilter pop, a spiritual successor to ‘Coffee’ by Beabadoobee, or ‘Say So’ by Doja, rather than gross-out rap or mumblecore,, the two other genres which tend to do preternaturally well on the platform. It’s easy to see why ‘Supalonely’ took off so massively –- while the lyrics may be downbeat (the hook is literally “I know I fucked up, guess I’m a loser”), sonically ‘Supalonely’ is a bumping, breezy pop jam, with the insistent airiness of enduring summer hits like ‘Happy’ by Pharrell, or even ‘Uptown Funk.’ It’s ideal montage music –- proof that even in a summer marred by a national emergency, people still wanted to listen to music that feels like driving with the top down, wind whipping through your hair.

It helped that the lyrics were serendipitously relevant. Written as a break-up song, ‘Supalonely’s hook became an eerie reflection of the national state of mind during this long, torturous summer. “I’ve been lonely, mm, yeah” BENEE hums, before the drop (a sound effect of glasses clinking) kicks in. Cue a zillion nods of recognition from across cyberspace. Who hasn’t been lonely, this summer? Who hasn’t been drinking?

For some artists, having so much success concentrated in an early single has historically posed a bit of a problem. On BENEE’s debut, the strategy has clearly been to diversify. Hey u x is a rag-tag selection of songs, which swerve through genres, bolstered by some glittering features. Opener ‘Happen To Me’ is almost MOR, a noodling, morose indie rock number. ‘Sheesh’ (ft. Grimes) is throwback electro-pop –- and it’s fun enough, although Grimes is lost in it, buried under overbearing synths. The same problem occurs in ‘Plain’ (ft. Lily Allen & Flo Milli). BENEE and Allen have similarly languid vocal styles, and with a thick layer of autotune applied on top, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between them. At least Flo Milli is there to liven things up, her spirited verse bringing the themes of the track to life: “Oh, you into them plain Janes now? / Looks like your standards went way down.”

In another time, the reception to Hey u x may have been read, like tea leaves, as an indication of BENEE’s longevity and future success. In 2020, I’m not entirely sure it matters anymore. While the death of the album has been overstated significantly, its importance has certainly been reduced. BENEE may not necessarily be an album artist, but listeners will find that most bases are covered within Hey u x’s 13 tracks. ‘Snail’ is bouncy and hip hop-inflected, with some endearingly bizarre lyrics (“‘I’m a snail / You’re a guy / I’m just mad / I can’t fl”)y’, ‘A Little While’ is sugary sweet folk, and if you miss the pep of ‘Supalonely’, the beachy funk of ‘Kool’ will be to your tastes. There’s a song here for every playlist, even if consuming all 13 in a row becomes a bit of a drag.

BENEE’s biography speaks of her enthusiasm for A&R; she’s even launched her own record label, Olive Records. Those ambitions are evident in her curatorial shrewdness –- but while Hey u x may be the album version of throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks, the fact is, some of it does stick.

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Wed Nov 11 17:21:05 GMT 2020

The Guardian 80

The 20-year-old New Zealander’s charming debut is a patchwork of genre-hopping songs with a fragile edge

Released at the end of last year, Supalonely – 20-year-old New Zealander Stella Bennett’s breakthrough hit – found a new life via TikTok in March, as lockdown gripped. Like the majority of songs on this endearingly careworn debut, it manages to be both breezy and broken, with Bennett softly cooing “I’m a sad girl, in this big world” over a wheezy take on disco.

Keen to avoid being “that TikTok artist”, Bennett followed Supalonely with the weirder Snail, a bouncy electro-pop opus about her favourite gastropod. Her restlessness also manifests itself in the various genres the album careers between: the gorgeous, soft-focus opener Happen to Me, which explores the anxiety of overthinking, leans into woozy alt-rock; Kool is louche hip-hop interrupted by big, crunchy rock riffs, while the Grimes-assisted Sheesh tackles 90s house.

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Sun Nov 15 15:00:37 GMT 2020

Pitchfork 64

Read Hannah Jocelyn’s review of the album.

Mon Nov 23 06:00:00 GMT 2020