Stella Donnelly first came to the music scene in the fall of 2017. Amidst the widespread growth of the #MeToo movement, Donnelly released her debut single “Boys Will Be Boys.” The song is an exploration of social responses and the experiences that come with sexual assault. It is unsurprising that such a relatable song by the Australian artist resonates with so many in the US, a country that at the time was facing the start of a deluge of celebrity sexual harassment issues, and that has a history of sexual harassment.
Unfortunately, two years later the song is still relevant. Similarly, Donnelly has shown no sign of stopping her pursuit to confront predatory culture. On her debut album, Beware of the Dogs, Donnelly shows herself again as an advocate for the safety of women. She uses personal stories to create a listening experience that is both surprisingly humorous and deeply empathetic to a very widespread issue.
In Beware of the Dogs, her first full-length piece, a more stark picture emerges. Her songs are complex and full of sharp lyrics in order to prod thinking in her listeners. Switching between humor and heart-wrenching lines, listeners are often pulled taut with genuine pain and then snapped with a well-placed punch lines.
In the opening song “Old Man,” Donnelly laments against abusers and sets the tone for the album as a whole. Its weighty subject matter contrasts against the chipper guitar tone and Donnelly’s delivery of one of the song’s more memorable lines: “Your personality traits don’t count if you put your d*ck in someone’s face.” Is she going for a laugh, a cringe, or both? It sounds somewhat like a crude joke, even as it lays out a grim reality.
This type of discussion surrounding rape, abuse, and sexual violence are constant throughout the album. Her willingness to confront such heavy subject matter sets her apart from other pop stars and proves that pop culture is shifting towards positive change.
However, her songs on Beware of the Dogs are not limited to sexual mistreatment. Although a common theme throughout her album, one of her songs also laments the simple shortcomings to everyday life. In “Lunch,” she mourns the feelings of nostalgia and homesickness that so commonly grip those away from the place they call home. Donnelly also describes how she feels homesick before she even leaves her home. This perhaps is a reference to never feeling like your current life and home is as good as it was before.
Another song that strays from the path is “Die,” a song that is about someone speaking to someone else and asking them if they are okay. Her line, “Look me in the eye / Tell me that you’re fine” demonstrates how hard it can be for people to open up to one another, which is something that everyone experiences.
Donnelly’s songs are an original and concise exploration of the frustrations of our society. She goes into depth on the inequalities and mistreatment that is so commonly found in relationships. Her album is clearly speaking to the world, and she demands to be heard.