“Boy, if you touch her again, I’ll tell your wife and your kids about that time. ‘Cause this is not ‘93, you lost your spot on the team, you’re out of line.”
When these lines are uttered within the first few seconds of Stella Donnelly's Beware of the Dogs, you know you’re in for a treat. From opening track "Old Man", Donnelly comes out all guns blazing, saying what so many of us wish we had the guts to say to older men who cross boundaries. She’s not saying anything new, but she doesn’t need to. Women need to say these things and men need to hear them.
Donnelly is acutely aware of women’s lived experiences, especially given a close friend of hers experienced a sexual assault, about which she wrote standout track "Boys Will Be Boys". With a refrain of “Why was she all alone? / Wearing her shirt that low?”, a sentiment that young women all over unfortunately know all too well, it is heartbreaking and jarring for anyone who has had this said to them previously. These are experiences that young women, regardless of their background have or will come across at a point in their lives. Beautifully poignant yet fiercely frank in the most blunt way possible. Her timing is impeccable, given the current climate in the creative industries.
Donnelly is brazen and explicit throughout perhaps most apparent on "Mosquito", in which she utters the line, “I use my vibrator wishing it was you / I was thinking of you Tuesday afternoon”. Whilst some listeners might find this level of frankness to be uncomfortable, it is a reminder of the reality of female sexuality and somewhat eased by Donnelly’s signature Western Australian drawl, which is equal parts sharp and lethargic. Her wit and openness is reminiscent of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, which similarly dissects the perils of being a woman in a patriarchal society. Whilst this comparison is a sad reminder that little progression has been made, it’s also brilliantly affirming in the fact songwriters like Donnelly have no qualms about calling out inequality and mistreatment in the world around them. Her pointedness shines through on latest single "Tricks", which takes aim at far-right Australians and music industry bigwigs, remarking, “You only like me when I do my tricks for you”.
Wonderfully fearless from start to finish, Donnelly speaks up for those who either won’t or can’t. Referring to herself as a “shit-stirrer”, Beware of the Dogs proves that Donnelly is anything but: her outspokenness is completely justified. It’s rare to come across someone so gutsy on their debut, and for that, Stella Donnelly, we salute you.