Lennon Stella released her debut album, “Three. Two. One.” on April 24 via Columbia Records. The album comes after a wave of EDM guest spots and festival performances last summer, building the foundations of her solo career.
Lennon Stella’s music career began with a viral YouTube video she and her sister made. She then spent a fair amount of time with her sister on the series “Nashville.” After the show ended, she started working on pop music as a solo artist.
Her first EP, “Love, me”, arrived in 2018 full of wonderful Spotify-core tunes. It was full of beautiful harmonies and clever lyricism. It was a great debut work that her new album builds upon.
“Three. Two. One.” is placid, poised and altogether gorgeous. It is a project that has a defined sonic palette, a rarity for a pop debut. It’s a striking synth-pop album that flows between melancholic and refined euphoria in the mid-tempo range. The tracks explore ill-fated relationships, growing up and family over electronic beats and glittering instrumentals.
The album’s lead single, “Kissing Other People,” a blissful song about the moment you realize you have moved on from an ex, is one that shows off all of Stella’s best assets. The track opens with a series of sharp metaphors and showcases the brilliant writing that Lennon Stella co-signs and is capable of – she is credited as a co-writer on 11 of the 13 songs on the album. The song’s instrumentals show off the spacey atmosphere present on this project, and the climbing pre-chorus shows off her impressive range and vocal control.
Sticking with the Spotify-core nature of her EP, Stella’s album is not in your face power pop. It is sparse and understated. It is content to coast along and it takes you on a smooth journey through vibes. Still, the producers find their moments to shine and engage the ear, i.e. the 8-bit instrumentals weaved into the background of “Games.”
The only feature on the album is the other half of her old duo, Maisy Stella. On the song “Weakness” the two sing together on a guitar ballad about the bond of sisterhood. It is a touching moment that connects the beginnings of her career to this new start.
“Weakness” is part of a trio of songs exploring her connection to Maisy. “Huey Lewis,” which is attached to “Weakness,” is a reconciliation with their weird childhood growing up on television. “Save Us” is a commitment to always have her back that flawlessly interpolates Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever.”
Though the project has the offerings of a handful of producers, the one who appears most is Malay. Best known for his work with Frank Ocean, Malay’s excellence is on true display throughout “Three. Two. One.” I hate to continue using the word vibe so much but it so distinctly captures the intangible element he adds to these songs.
Take “Fear of Being Alone,” for example. The trembling synths over the distant piano riff and distorted background vocals in the post-chorus drop create an actual sense of fear. It’s one of the more energetic tracks on the album, but it feels like you are dancing around an eerie haunted house.
“Pretty Boy” is hypnotizing in its simplicity, reinforcing the lyrics meditating on achieving intimacy with a hesitant partner. The pitched lead vocal in “Bend Over Backwards” sounds like the voice inside your head coaching you to stand up for yourself. It’s these details that elevate the already impressive songs.
These songs have genius hooks and truly impressive lyrics. The talent is making the obscure or unconventional references and comparisons feel conventional. Never did I think watching golf on television would be part of a sincere love song, but the moving “Golf on TV” makes it feel like it should have been done before. Anyone who can slip a reference to Potemkin villages into pop lyrics is truly putting in the work.
“Three. Two. One.” is a defining debut album. It marks Stella’s territory in the pop landscape with no reservations. The title is a reference to the leap of faith that comes with releasing an album, the countdown before the dive. I think with this album it is safe to say that she has executed the dive stunningly and gracefully.