Album Review: Lennon Stella – Three. Two. One. (2020)

Cookie FM Rating – 5/5

Sometimes you come across an artist whose voice leaves such an impression on you that their debut album is on repeat on the daily. And that’s exactly what happens with Lennon Stella. I was first introduced to her talents on the country music drama Nashville, one of my favourite tv series. She has come a long way since the series premiere in 2012, debuting her own music in 2018 and featured on hit singles such as Polaroid (with Jonas Blue & Liam Payne), Takeaway (with The Chainsmokers & Illenium), and Workin’ On It (with Meghan Trainor & Sasha Sloan). Lennon also received the Juno Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year 2020, which sure is amaze for this 21-year-old Canadian songstress. But in April 2020, Lennon finally released her debut album and I love it!

Three. Two. One. (2020) is definitely different than a lot of music in the charts right now, and that is a very good thing. Not only does Lennon Stella have a beautiful voice, soft in tone with a chill kind of vibe, but her lyrics are also heartfelt and real whilst the music is not cookie-cutter in the slightest when it comes to genre. It takes from R&B, country and alt with a slight indie nod too – see, not cookie-cutter!

The album opens with Much Too Much and Lennon’s gorgeous vocals from the get-go. An upbeat tempo supported by heavy bass, percussion and lyrics that almost feel like an oxymoron. It questions whether or not a relationship is worth it, or if it’s too late to try, that there’s a lot to lose if you don’t, but that there’s doubt about it all. So contradictory!

Following on from this, Kissing Other People is a perfect second song that is like a call-and-answer to the opening track. I adore this one though, the lyrics feel empowering, as though you’re in that stage post-break up where you’re confident in yourself once again. I also love Lennon’s vocals, she shows off her range so beautifully.

“That’s how I know that your love is gone. That’s how I know I’m really moving on. ‘Cause I don’t feel guilty kissing other people.” – Kissing Other People, Lennon Stella (2020)

Games is definitely a song that many of us can relate to during our dating lives. Lyrically, it’s pretty straight-forward in how one half of a relationship just enjoys playing the ‘game of love’ more than being in it. And I really enjoy the subtle video game sounds too! Fear of Being Alone is an uptempo track despite its fearful lyrics with hazy, percussion-lead and synth R&B notes, whilst Lennon’s vocals take a few directions; higher during the chorus, lower and almost spoken during the verses. Hands up who has felt that fear of being alone at least once though… (Yup, I’ve raised my hand too.)

The next track, Pretty Boy, surely has that indie vibe to it, with its dreamlike composition. It’s the kind of song you’d play as you’re going on a long drive, thinking over life and love. The lyrics are rather poignant, they depict this pretty boy who won’t open up and let her in, that he thinks his real self will scare her away, and I’m sure we’ve also felt that about someone we’ve attempted a relationship with.

Golf On TV is easily one of my favourite tracks, with lyrics that I rather aspire to. Sometimes love can be so easy and all laid out without the heartache – and that’s the beauty of love. That when people do find ‘the one’ and it all seems right, they feel like they’re missing something out there or that it’s too perfect to be right. But what I love about this song is how it brings the message that all of that is right. Musically it’s also very complimentary of Lennon’s vocals with simple and sweet piano and percussion.

“Some people wanna switch it up. Like just one love, could never be enough. Some people watch golf on TV. And neither of those things make sense to me. Some people think it’s supposed to hurt. Like it couldn’t be real, if it’s putting you first. But some people watch golf on TV, and neither of those things make sense to me.” – Golf On TV, Lennon Stella (2020)

We then enter a rather beautiful ballad in the form of Older Than I Am. With lyrics reflective of an upapologetic young woman growing up, proud of her overcomings and growth. If you’re not usually keen on coming-of-age songs, this is one of those beautiful exceptions. I adore the instrumentation, heavy on the piano and strings but with subtle synth beats throughout, and of course Lennon’s vocals adding to the ballad.

Bend Over Backwards has some great lyrics of compromising with another whilst standing one’s ground and not being pushed over. This track has a more rock vibe to it than others on the album, in addition to an indie sound too. Following this, Jealous is another cool track that explores post-break up relations, backed up by an upbeat tempo. The lyrics are a nice little comeback too, “When I’m with someone else and I’m not missing us, if I can live without you, sue me.” Like all good things that come in threes, Since I Was a Kid is another cool and collected type of song, with a very chill R&B backing track to support Lennon’s vocals. It continues the theme of a break up and holding oneself up from younger years into womanhood. It has a slight dig at that former other half with the final lyric: “We could call it tragic, for a million different reasons. We could call it tragic, or we could call it even.”

Weakness (Huey Lewis) is a very interesting recording, and features Lennon’s sister Maisy Stella. It is a two-part song with a voice recording introduction (that I’m guessing was from a home video), that has some beautiful vocals from these talented Canadian sisters. An almost guitar and vocals only track, the lyrics seem to depict growing up and being teenagers, and how sometimes it is hard to talk out feelings. The song then transitions into a synth-led R&B second half, and harmonized vocals. It rather reminds of me of Rihanna‘s double song Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary from Unapologetic (2012).

From my first listen, I knew this was my favourite from the album. Save Us not only features lyrics and the backing track to my favourite song of all time, I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis, but it is also a truly beautiful track. Taking us on a story of everlasting love, and that, though life may change our plans and alter our path, when you have a strong enough connection it can’t tear you apart. The Donna Lewis lyrics mesh perfectly into Lennon’s own too, another reason why I love the composition of this song.

Closing the album with Goodnight seems truly apt, though lyrically very different to the previous track. The recurring heartache theme comes full circle as Lennon paints another poignant picture of a couple having to part without wanting to say goodbye, and that it might hurt a little less if they do it whilst she’s sleeping. This message also reminds me of Paloma Faith‘s Leave While I’m Not Looking from A Perfect Contradiction (2014). Musically, the last minute of the song enters a hyped upbeat that brings the album to an almost bittersweet ending.

“When I close my eyes, please don’t say goodbye, just say goodnight. ‘Cause we know goodbye’s the end.” – Goodnight, Lennon Stella (2020)

Throughout this album, I really admire the piano playing on Three. Two. One. as I feel it really sets the tone for each and every song. Lennon’s sound and vocal arrangements are also something I feel has been missing from the music industry. The songs might be shorter than albums you’re used to hearing, but what I find from that is Lennon’s message is delivered more easily and to the point. I’m already excited for what more Lennon Stella will record and deliver, and will happily continue to support her career.

IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD Three. Two. One. YET, BUY/STREAM THE ALBUM ON TIDAL HERE OR OTHER PLATFORMS HERE!

Tracklisting

  1. Much Too Much
  2. Kissing Other People
  3. Games
  4. Fear of Being Lonely
  5. Pretty Boy
  6. Golf On TV
  7. Older Than I Am
  8. Bend Over Backwards
  9. Jealous
  10. Since I Was a Kid
  11. Weakness (Huey Lewis, feat. Maisy Stella)
  12. Save Us
  13. Goodnight

CLICK TO LISTEN TO Three. Two. One. by Lennon Stella ON TIDAL

Nirina XX

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Image © Lennon Stella, Columbia Records

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