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Benee of 'Supalonely' TikTok Fame Releases Debut Album

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

When the pandemic hit in March, one song quickly became the soundtrack for the long, isolating months ahead.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUPALONELY")

BENEE: (Singing) I been lonely. Ooh, la, la, la. Lonely - I'm a lonely chick.

MCCAMMON: That's when Elton John called "Supalonely" by Benee his top tip for the next global smash. As the pandemic dragged on, the song by the 20-year-old musician from New Zealand climbed the Billboard charts. And then came the TikTok challenge. And Benee went viral.

BENEE: I often get asked to do the TikTok dance, but I am not a dancer. I was getting constantly sent these little dance videos, like, every day. And I was like, what are these things - like, what are these irritating me? My little brother is 17. He kind of gave me, like, the inside scoop on who the big TikTok stars are. You know, he talked about this girl called Charli D'Amelio and was like, this girl gets millions and millions of views. And everyone is obsessed. And they just go viral. And I was like, what? I don't quite understand it.

But I used to watch this girl called Emma Chamberlain when I was a bit younger on YouTube. And she did the dance. And J.Lo did the dance. And I was like, oh, my gosh. What is happening right now?

MCCAMMON: When you've gotten J.Lo, you know you're big time. Now, Benee, who's real name is Stella Rose Bennett, is hoping to build on that momentum with a debut album called "Hey U X." One of the first songs she wrote while in lockdown addressed an unusual topic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SNAIL")

BENEE: (Singing) Wonder why you stay inside. I can't talk. Can't speak my mind.

I was living with my parents at the time of the first lockdown. Then they have, like, a weird amount of snails in their garden. And I know that now, living in a different house, that it's not normal to have that many snails outside a house. But I just found myself like watching them. And I didn't have a lot else to do with my time. So I don't know. I kind of like, you know, watched them and wondered what they were thinking. And I wrote in my notes about a song about a snail.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SNAIL")

BENEE: I'm like a snail. You're a guy - kind of mad I can't fly. When it's day, hide away. I'll come out when it rains. I'm a snail...

I made up a little story about, like, a snail wondering why a human isn't coming outside and stuff. And like, even when I was in lockdown, I was like, I wonder if the snails could tell that I'm in lockdown right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SNAIL")

BENEE: (Singing) Everything's passing by. I ride to you on my bike while everyone is asleep.

They're so underrated. Like, no one cares about them. And they get stood on. And everyone hates them. But then you look at them, and they're actually kind of cute and a little bit helpless. And I can't help but feel sorry for them. And they carry their house on their back. I also thought that was a really cool thing. And especially when I was writing, like, a lockdown song, I was like, this little guy carries their house on their back. But I'm stuck in my house and can't go anywhere.

MCCAMMON: Benee also takes serious turns.

BENEE: My song "Happened To Me" is the first track in the album. And that is a song I wrote about my anxieties, you know, my fears about, like, everything.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPEN TO ME")

BENEE: (Singing) Hope I don't die inside a plane. I'd like to die a better way.

I start off the song talking about my fear of planes and flying. And, obviously, that's a thing that you have to do quite a lot as a musician when you're touring. My anxieties recently in, like, the last couple of years have gotten pretty bad. I know it's just, like, everyday stresses. Like, you know, I have another fear that my room could catch fire when I'm sleeping. And that's also written about in the song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPEN TO ME")

BENEE: (Singing) My mind likes to wind itself up. And I don't get a lot of sleep because what if they happen to me?

I've posted on my social media about mental health and about - you know, like, posting photos of me crying, you know, that kind of stuff. I think it's just important to kind of remind people that, you know, you're also a very normal thing. And we're all just blood and bones. And I think, for me, even just like following, you know, artists who I love and hearing them talk about how they struggle with this or - I just think it's so important to be honest and to not trick people into thinking that it's all perfect, and everything's a highlight.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPEN TO ME")

BENEE: (Singing) If my room burns down in flames.

MCCAMMON: Benee - her new album is "Hey U X."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPEN TO ME")

BENEE: (Singing) And I die in my sleep and never wake. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.