by Thomas Bedward April 12, 2018
A femme queer singer-songwriter hailing from ‘The Queen City’ of Cincinnati, Ohio, Benji Harless is an artist full of intrigue. Depending on what part of the internet you find Benji, the description of them varies wonderfully, with everything from a “queer singer-songwriter with a taste and style far beyond their years”, to our personal favourite, “Debbie in the Face, Harry in the Body“.
Born to perform, Benji starred in a number of musicals which nurtured their passion to be on stage. It was the start of a life-long dream that led Benji to pursue a BFA in Dramatic Arts at The New School for Drama, receiving their degree in 2017 as a part of their inaugural class. Now armed with the experience to match their passion, Benji has taken the brave step of revealing their debut release, the two-track single of ‘Low in High Heels’ and ‘Girl On Bowery’.
A release that contains two very different songs, ‘Low in High Heels’ and ‘Girl On Bowery’ embodies the experience of a young queer person making their way through the streets of New York’s Lower East Side. It’s a release that has been called a modern-day answer to Lou Reed's ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, but while it might hold the same spirit, it couldn’t be more musically different. Opening single ‘Low in High Heels’ is an intriguing mixture of ideas and energy, throwing together artfully distorted, rap-like verse with loud, impassioned choruses to make a familiar, but effective song structure. Reminiscent of Suede and ringing with the influences of Blondie and Madonna, it’s a track that sees Benji arriving on the music scene in unapologetically raucous fashion. Trading high-flying anthemics for more heartfelt melody, ‘Girl On Bowery’ dispels the energy of its predecessor with a rolling wave of repetition, taking the smooth instrumentals and overlapping it with a chorus that fades from lyrics to simple vocalised sounds.
Musically, both songs are simple, but they’re well-orchestrated and effectively made, offering a deft backing to Benji’s lyrics and vocals, the only shame is that in each track there is some definite room for improvement on both ends. While more lyrically and artistically captivating, Benji’s vocals seem to strain in the choruses of ‘Low Life in High Heels’, particularly when considering the contrast with the delivery of the verse. It’s an issue that is wonderfully corrected in ‘Girl On Bowery’, where the softer instrumentals match Benji’s more natural vocals brilliantly, offering a brilliant harmony overall, but with less enamouring lyrics throughout.
It’s a strange effect, to find both brilliance and fault in equal almost measures, but thankfully in the case of both tracks, the good can be heard to outweigh the bad. It’s rare for debut releases to ever be perfect, but rarer still for them to make a truly memorable mark. Benji has managed to do just that with their singles, and after a few listens we promise the name Benji Harless will always be with you.
You can stream both singles now on Spotify, and grab your own copy of the release through iTunes.
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