Benee
Pop

Chartbreaker: How BENEE Turned Her Breakup Into a Quarantine-Ready Hot 100 Hit

In April 2019, New Zealand pop singer BENEE was at her first-ever writing session in Los Angeles. Within four hours, she had turned her breakup — which had taken place less than a week before — into a hit.

Right before BENEE left for L.A., she had ended her on-and-off long-distance relationship with the guy she had been dating for a couple years. Being alone — and in a new city, where her friends and mom weren’t there to comfort her — proved difficult. But she was able to confide in producer Josh Fountain and Canadian singer-songwriter Jenna Andrews -- "I vomited my words into my notes and computer,” she says. Together, they wrote “Supalonely.”

Now, the song (which features Gus Dapperton) is enjoying an 11-week run on the Billboard Hot 100, recently reaching No. 39. “It’s been pretty insane, “says BENEE, who has watched the track take off on TikTok and U.S. radio over the past few months. “I was like, ‘What the heck is happening?’”

Growing up in Auckland, BENEE (born Stella Rose Bennett) played classical guitar and saxophone while singing in the school choir. By the end of high school, she was recording covers of artists like Gnarls Barkley and sharing them online for fun among friends.

To her surprise, she caught the attention of her now-manager Paul McKessar and producer Josh Fountain, who frequent Lorde collaborator Joel Little chose to take over his Auckland recording studio. In December 2017, BENEE released her first team-up with Fountain, the sultry "Tough Guy.” “That was when I knew that music was something I wanted to at least try out," she says, "and then I figured out what music I wanted to make.”

Imogen Wilson
Benee

By 2018, the record labels were circling. When McKessar told BENEE there was interest from multiple labels, “that was the best thing I could possibly hear, because it meant I could quit my other jobs” -- making pizzas and washing dishes -- “and only do music. That was something I didn't really think would happen,” she says.

Among the labels eager to meet with her was Republic Records, whose A&R manager, Daniel Vayness, got in touch with McKessar. Republic flew McKessar, BENEE and her mom to New York City for a meeting, and the singer recalls being impressed by the straightforward approach from the label’s executive vice president, Rob Stevenson. “They were super honest with me -- they threw me into the deep end and Rob gave me no bulls--t,” BENEE says. “I like when people are super straight up, to the point where it could be a little bit scary.” Thrilled to share a label home with powerful female superstars like Ariana Grande in particular, BENEE signed a recording contract with Republic in early 2019.

By that June, the bubbly Fire On Marzz EP -- BENEE's first release with Republic -- enjoyed press attention from outlets back home. But it was her second EP, Stella & Steve, released at the end of 2019, that caught on stateside thanks in large part to “Supalonely.”

Courtesy of Benee
Selfie taken on May 28, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Within a few months of its release, “Supalonely” benefited from another surprising co-sign: TikTok’s most-followed user, Charli D'Amelio, who had performed an elaborate, arm-waving dance routine -- originally created by a user named Zoe Fish -- on the platform. The exposure launched “Supalonely” to a new stratosphere, which BENEE, who didn’t use the app at the time, only realized once her younger brother explained it to her. “I was like, ‘Okay… I understand what’s happening -- and this is crazy.’” Soon, radio stations around the world were playing the song, and in March BENEE and Dapperton made their Hot 100 debut.

As the world went into lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, the song, anchored by the lyric "I'm a lonely bitch," felt more relevant than ever. And its colorful music video, which shows Benee alone at home eating “Lonely-Os” and lounging in a tub, now boasts nearly 75 million views.

Imogen Wilson
Benee

To capitalize on her moment, she shared a stripped-back version of the hit called "Lownely" at the beginning of May, and is still thinking of other ideas to extend the song’s lifespan. At the same time, she’s eager for what’s next. Quarantine has recently lifted in New Zealand, and BENEE is thrilled to be back in the studio where she’s hard at work on her debut album. Since she’s been unable to tour -- her North American spring headlining trek was cancelled -- and has more time to write and record, the pandemic has moved the timeline up a bit, which she’s grateful for.

“It's nice to have things go back to normal -- it feels really good being back in the studio,” she says. “I’m getting there.”