Many songwriters say that they write music because it’s how they process what happens in their lives, those tough topics that they may not be able to articulate as well in conversation. While this may be true of Australian singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly, her music also provokes those hard conversations. Donnelly’s debut album, Beware of the Dogs, explores topics ranging from a bad boss, Australia’s political problems, and the #MeToo movement, in a creatively cohesive way that leaves listeners with a complete narrative.
The singer-songwriter first caught public attention upon the release of “Boys Will Be Boys” in 2017. Survivors of sexual assault were quick to claim the song as their own, and it became an anthem of sorts for the #MeToo movement. This was not Donnelly’s original intention, who simply wanted to share the honest telling of a friend’s assault. Her debut EP, Thrush Metal, followed with the same honesty – only a taste of what was to come on Beware of the Dogs.
Her debut record begins with “Old Man,” an uptempo, guitar driven track that almost sounds happy, but explains the unfortunate power dynamic between women and white men of privilege. In an age where women are speaking up, and inappropriate behavior is no longer being tolerated, Donnelly’s lyrics resonate deeply. She sings, “And no, it’s never too late / We sat there silently while you kept your job / And your place and your six-figure wage.”
The title track, “Beware of the Dogs,” is a poetically bold criticism of the environmental and racial issues that stem from the Australian government. Donnelly writes it with an awareness of her position of privilege as a white woman, and questions how it’s deemed acceptable that someone living right next door could live an entirely different life experience simply based on their skin color. She effortlessly changes topics in the following track, “U Owe Me.” The haunting vocal in the chorus leaves an air of mystery as to who the song could be about, but she later explained that it was about a horrible boss that she had worked for.
Track 12, “Watching Telly,” was written on the day that Ireland made it legal to seek an abortion and the hostile protests that followed as a result. Her latest project is a music video for her song “Die,” a song originally written to jog to, in which she plays every role: the victim, the nurse, and the hearse driver.
Though many of the tracks on Donnelly’s album speak upon very different ideas, Donnelly does an exceptional job at creating a narrative that becomes more and more relatable with each song. She isn’t afraid to question why things are the way they are and makes bold lyrical choices that may take listeners aback upon first listen.
Discover Stella Donnelly below: