The 19-year-old Lennon Stella co-wrote ‘Breakaway’ with Jarryd James, Sam De Jong and Kate York. Maybe it was the winds, or perhaps the muse, that brought the beginnings of ‘Breakaway’ to Stella when she was on a writing trip in Nicaragua. Famous for its vast lakes and formidable volcanoes, rich coffee, and the poet and journalist Gioconda Belli. Stella describes the song as coming from a place of instability and the feeling of being untethered from what kept you safe as a child.
“At the time of this trip, I was in a very weird headspace. If I’m being entirely honest, my parents were separating, and I was moving out on my own scared shitless and just feeling genuinely lost in many different aspects. This song was made in the trees of Nicaragua about exactly how I was feeling in that moment which makes this song ultimately special to me. I hope you resonate with it.”
Bleeding synths, electronic beats and rhythm conspire with the vocal manipulation in the creation of a dark and heavy ambience, reflecting what Stella describes above, of being scared and lost. That vocal manipulation and distortion goes as far, if not further than the lyrics do, in telling the story. At the end the second verse Stella sings the line, Why’d you have to make me older?/ Make me older, make me older, with each subsequent ‘make me older’ being lowered until she does in fact sound older.
‘Breakaway’ grows and bleeds out in the pre-chorus and choruses and then retracts back in again in the verses. This exhale and inhale in the music mimics the waves of anxiety, when one moment all is okay and the next it really isn’t. Stella manages to capture the latter not just in the words but in the feeling also. The way her vocals shift, and you can feel her tense up as if you were standing next to her. It’s that feeling you have as your safety net is pulled out from under you. The moment your stomach drops. When the person who brings you comfort and safety takes the blanket with them, leaving you feeling exposed and scared.
The ground and the ceiling seem to be disappearing/ Nothing to stand on, oh God, I hate this feeling
This translation of emotion through her vocals continues into the refrain, which is broken and distorted, almost mirroring the action of breaking away from a relationship or from a place of familiarity. Breaking away is never clean-cut like a knife through butter but more like when you tear a crust from a piece of bread, jagged edges left and crumbs on the kitchen floor.
I’ll break, breakaway/ Break, breakaway
There is moment near the end of the song where a wistful and haunting jazz line and echoes of voices appear and then quickly disappear. Bringing to mind both Sephardic music and the imagined backstreets of New York in the 1920s. Perhaps this is the moment in which all the fear dies down and you can see the way out, until you get pulled back under again.
Everything is falling apart, slipping away/ There’s no rewinding the things we say/ Everything is falling apart, slipping away/ No way to fight it