Australian singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly raises a middle finger to the status quo with her debut album. Wrapped in sweet and tender folk melodies, Beware of the Dogs mixes lighthearted humor with unapologetic commentary as it blurs the line between personal and political.
“Old Man” sees Donnelly directing her anger toward powerful men — a sentiment that is more relevant now than ever in the #MeToo era. “Oh, are you scared of me, old man? / Or are you scared of what I’ll do?” she taunts amidst gentle, folky guitar strumming.
Beware of the Dogs is a masterpiece in the art of contradiction. Donnelly’s soft guitar-pop style and delicate delivery perfectly juxtapose the album’s explicit nature.
On “Mosquito” Donnelly gets frank with lyrics about masturbation — “I use my vibrator wishing it was you / I was thinking of ya Tuesday afternoon.” The brilliance of what Donnelly is doing on this album shines through on this track, as her delicate vocals seemingly contradict her racy, sex-driven lyrics.
“Boys Will Be Boys” is probably the most essential track on the album. The song – a painful story about a friend’s sexual assault – is really a call-out message to the likes of Brock Turner and a culture that blames victims while absolving their abusers.
“Boys Will Be Boys” was actually released right before Harvey Weinstein was confronted publicly for a long history of sexual harassment accusations. In an interview with NPR, Donnelly explains, “It was the first time that the powers had to show some sort of compassion and that maybe the pendulum was possibly swinging back a little bit towards women having the freedom to speak out about these issues.”
In some ways, Beware of the Dogs feels like it has a kinship to Courtney Barnett’s style of direct, humorous songwriting. She is writing music that is just poignant enough to get her message across and just offensive enough to cause some discomfort. At the same time, Donnelly is writing music that seeks to offer solidarity to women everywhere.