Benee has had the spotlight trained on her since the explosion of her 2019 hit single, “Supalonely”: a song that appears on her debut album Hey u x, as well as on TikTok, where the addictive chorus soundtracked endless imitations of a dance popularized by the app’s megastars. The attention she has thus received off the coattails of the natural and slightly coincidental celebrity that these dance crazes gift artists is entirely warranted. Benee, whose real name is Stella Rose Bennett, has an undeniable talent for pop music, a seemingly endless knack for ear-catching phrases and intensely direct lyrics which never stop being satisfying.
Hey u x comes straight from the environment of the teenagers alone in their bedrooms crafting comedy sketches, spewing out their innermost thoughts or just sharing generally ridiculous moments from their lives. She sits comfortably within the classic social media tradition of reaching out to any potential audience. The relatability of the lyrics is turned up to the max. As a self-proclaimed “weird girl” without actually being alienating or unmarketable, anyone who has ever felt alone, unappreciated or jealous will find solace in the songs here. The song “Happen to Me” details her existential anxiety, and Bennett morosely sings about her overthinking. She’s terrified of death and of growing old. It’s fitting that this is the first song, as it sets the stage for what lies in the back of her mind as she details the other minutiae of her life. Each song consequently describes the petty dramas that distract us from our eventual end. Woozy, hazy instrumentation aids in setting the stage for semi-hornily pining after someone else. Multiple songs detail lusting after a man; one who is inherently disappointing, or where Bennett blames herself or other women for his actions.
It’s this lack of self-confidence that is endemic of social media culture. When you have a medium that snatches away the most fundamental human elements of communication, while simultaneously gaslighting the user that they are more connected than ever, people are bound to feel depressed or simply unwanted. The inhuman aspect of social media is untraversable. You won’t see anyone’s facial reactions to what you post, there’s no smell or heat from the people you meet in cyberspace. Sans video games, there’s no shared experiences you can have with these people. It’s all an unfulfilling simulation of actual life. Like most of our generation, the so-called “digital natives,” Benee is chained to the internet. The other musicians that appear on Hey u x only further cement this fact. The feature list is stacked with artists who’ve also enjoyed massive success on TikTok (Bakar, Flo Milli, Kenny Beats, Lily Allen). Bennett constructs an album of the most contemporary sounds and topics possible. It’s clear that her thoughts are dominated by angst, anxiety, nervousness, all from the fear and overwhelming presence of isolation, but also from the effects of being young. As a symbol of the state of Gen Z, her messaging lends itself to a concerning rise in our current consciousness.
We’ve prized youth and shirked a more fulfilling path. It’s an ill-defined category that is constructed around the goodwill and customs of our culture. The danger in not accepting adulthood is of denying reality, and never fully growing. Of course, adulthood is fraught with depressive visions of responsibility and a lack of self autonomy. There’s the possibility your life will be subjugated by endless work and obligations. But this does not mean that we should retreat into a fantasy of comfort that exists through the goodwill of those who came before us. There is beauty in adulthood and all the relationships that can blossom in this condition. Arguably, it’s where the most complex and varied ones arise. So it is just with a cautious mind that we should grow, and prioritize the people around us, and the joy that comes from them as we age together. Benee is a voice for the bedroomed youth; those who feel that there is no future, so cling to a comforting innocence that they’ve always known. People who self-infantilize until their physical reality no longer matches their mental condition, and until we stop viewing the internet as our primary place, we may never escape.
Daily Arts Writer Vivian Istomin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.