Stella Donnelly “Beware of the Dogs”
Maybe it’s that Australian irony and sarcasm that helps fuel the unapologetically honest and cheeky accusatory indictment, that is Stella Donnelly’s new album, Beware of the Dogs.
Singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly is an indie pop/rock fire-ball, who is unafraid to stir the pot and keep the fire going strong.
Her songwriting is not unlike narrative storytelling, with witty humour and the playful juxtaposition of jeering child-like tones and bright melodies, while commenting on the violent and harrowing social and political situation of the world.
Donnelly takes a close look at the difficult topics that most people would rather look away from: sexism, the controversy over a woman’s right to choose, toxic masculinity, white nationalism, and the jarring undeniable relevance of the #MeToo movement.
There’s no question about the inspiration for “Old Man.” Starting off the album with a bang, “Old Man” is a commentary on sexual assault and abuse of women by men, and the abuse of power, specifically in the music industry. This is a theme that has been all over media headlines, with new accusations being brought forward each day. In some ways this track is triumphant, mocking and taunting, but the fight is far from over.
Oh are you scared of me old man or are you scared of what I’ll do? You grabbed me with an open hand. The world is grabbing back at you.
Donnelly commented on her writing process of the track,
“I came up with the chords and chorus to this song in 2017 around the time when Woody Allen called the #metoo movement a witch hunt. It was a very strange feeling for me watching the world change right before my eyes and to see that these men who had exploited their power for so long were actually being held accountable for their actions. It made me look back on my experiences as a young woman doing music and certain powerful men who tried to manipulate me and exploit other young women. I needed to write this song for myself because if I hadn’t I would still feel quite angry about things that I probably let slide in my younger, more naive days. I have no intentions of publicly calling out these people but it’s a nice feeling to me knowing that they may hear this song one day and feel perhaps an inch of the humiliation and powerlessness that they inflicted on me back then.” — Stella Donnelly
It’s a protest of patriarchy and it cuts deep.
Sharing the title of her album, the track “Beware of the Dogs” tackles the explicitly political topic of the current state of her country and the dangers of privilege that threaten other minorities. Her warm vibrato is sharp and determined to support the voices that are so often silenced and ignored.
“It’s about Australian identity and what that actually means for me, as an Anglo, white Australian, and how my experience of this country can differ so much from somebody else’s based on that privilege. It also looks at the people in power, who have all the money and protect it at the expense of others. I guess I’m just trying to use this platform to speak up.”– Stella Donnelly
About halfway through the album, we get to the track that set Donnelly’s mission in motion, after its release on her previous EP Thrush Metal in 2017. “Boys will be Boys,” is a critique of the quieted rape culture. It is sweetly devastating, a confrontation victim-blaming that always follows survivors of sexual assault.
Your father told you that you’re innocent/told ya women rape themselves
“It’s a really hard song to play and I always give a content warning before playing it live. I wrote the song back in 2016, when these conversations were far less frequent. I felt that I had a lot of anger and didn’t know where to put it.”– Stella Donnelly, Fact Mag
The track “Watching Telly,” addresses the link between sexism and societal expectations and civil rights of women. It’s a powerful track that campaigns for better protection and resources for those who are most vulnerable.
Donnelly comments on the songs inspiration,
“I wrote this song after arriving in Dublin on the day that they voted in the right for women to seek a legal abortion. It was really scary. There were ‘No’ signs everywhere, lots of protests. I felt so much for the women who had to see these signs questioning the right to make their own decisions for their bodies. I just found it so troubling that there was still such a question about that freedom.”– Stella Donnelly
Donnelly’s first full length album Beware of the Dogs, is exactly what you think it is. She puts the people on trial who are more than deserving of being ridiculed, and demands them to take responsibility, for onlookers to do their part, and be loud and supportive. In the wake of the ever-damning and heartbreakingly commonplace mistreatment of women and other minorities, Donnelly is using her position as an artist to send out a message to the public in support of the #MeToo movement and of women everywhere to “Beware of the Dogs.”
*Donnelly reminds me of a young Lily Allen and fellow Aussie musician Courtney Barnett.