You know you have a pop superstar on your hands when their first few releases prove to be incredibly catchy, well put together and thematically consistent. This is the case for artists like Shawn Mendes, Khalid, Post Malone and especially Billie Eilish. Add Auckland, New Zealand icon BENEE to this list of talent, if you haven’t already. Apart from her debut single “Tough Guy” (2017), her discography is not even two years old yet. Regardless, at the time of writing, she has over 11 million monthly listeners on Spotify and has a platinum record in multiple countries. As if she somehow had more to prove, BENEE‘s debut album “Hey u x” (2020) is an incredible, filler-free collection of songs. It’s a wild ride of fun storytelling, emotional depth and total bangers, all showing different facets of BENEE’s talents.
“Happen to Me” is a very mellow opener, where BENEE discusses thoughts she has late at night about life. During a virtual show she performed in October, she stated, “This is a little song I wrote about my fears of everything!” Lyrically, she’s opening herself up to the world about the fears she has as a result of her anxiety. To follow is “Same Effect” — an awesome track that balances a relaxed atmosphere with a catchy beat. BENEE‘s vocal melody is terrific throughout the song, verses and chorus alike. It is hard not to fall in love with her style; it’s infectious.
Unsurprisingly, the most against-the-grain track on the record is “Sheesh (feat. Grimes).” It’s kinda neat, actually, seeing how BENEE makes her way around an instrumental that’s way more drum ‘n’ bass than alt-pop. Due to the artificial nature of the song, it is no surprise that Grimes herself fits on this track with ease. In an Apple Music interview, BENEE explained why this song even came up in the first place: “I’d joked around about making a drum-and-bassy EDM song. Then I was in a session with my producer Josh [Fountain], and I was like, ‘It’s time. I want to make a really upbeat, crazy one. I want Auto-Tune everywhere, I want to sound like a robot.’”
Of course, a lot of BENEE‘s international appeal is thanks to the popularity of “Supalonely.” It didn’t really need to be on the album, as the song already appeared on her 2019 EP “STELLA & STEVE” and gained a second wave of popularity spreading on TikTok, but it seems to fit “Hey u x” pretty well. The track, featuring Gus Dapperton, has still not lost its appeal, probably thanks to its irresistible bass/guitar combo and BENEE‘s unforgettable vocal performance. The song “Snail” is another lead single that remains as being one of BENEE’s most unique songs. It has the lyrical intrigue of “Monsta” (2019), and the bouncy and whimsical instrumentals of “Soaked” (2019), each amplified to new degrees.
If you want to talk about another incredible vocal moment from BENEE, the successor song “Plain” would be the place to look. Not only is this song further displaying BENEE‘s incredible ability of weaving a perfect chorus with her instrumental, but it’s also got some lovable lyrics. In an NME interview, BENEE described what it’s all about and how she chose her accompanying vocalists, saying “I wanted to make it a song someone could listen to when they find out their ex is with someone new … The feeling sucks, so I wanted ‘Plain’ to make ya feel like you have the upper hand. Lily [Allen] and Flo Milli both have such cool sass, and both their verses really elevated the track!”
To follow “Plain” is arguably BENEE’s most hard-hitting bop to date, “Kool.” The listener is immediately hit with a set of deep F-sharp 5 chords and the slamming of drums before transitioning into another guitar/bass/drum combo that has always proven to be good ground for BENEE to work her magic on. The bass line on this song is divine, and the guitar tone is extremely funky. You can’t help but dance to this song, and BENEE does nothing less than make the song more enjoyable.
While a rough transition from “Kool,” the song “Winter (feat. Mallrat)” is still another cut not to ignore. It serves as a segue into the second half of the album, which is almost like a darker half. The minimal “A Little While” is a more somber ballad lyrically and instrumentally. Her collaboration with producer Kenny Beats and vocalist Bakar, “Night Garden,” has an incredibly dark tone with a groovy bass line, fitting perfectly in this thematic context. “All The Time (feat. Muroki)” may be the instrumental low point on the album but is easily the most relaxing, as BENEE and Muroki‘s incredible vocals are the main focus point.
“If I Get To Meet You” is a charming, higher-tempo song to include on the last end of the record. The instrumental and vocals are really tight, and nothing has to be added or removed to make it sound better. On a lyrical front, BENEE addresses the song to someone she’s crushing on, fitting this lighter hearted nature of the song. “C U,” on the other hand, is the saddest song on the album instrumentally. Perhaps this doesn’t end off the album on an exciting note, but it’s still a cool moment, almost as if she is saying goodbye to the listener.
From cover to cover, “Hey u x” is definitely a worthwhile experience. While the album could have had a more consistent flow, there’s something special about its variety that adds another layer of quality. There are songs to dance to, songs to cuddle to, songs to cry to and songs to cheer you up. BENEE’s vocals are relentlessly lovable, and her wide variety of approaches is something to admire.