“Music is so over-saturated and competitive now — you have to take it back to basics and the organic style of A&R,” says Jenna Andrews. The songwriter credited on the viral hit “Supalonely” would know: Andrews has seen every corner of the business as a major label artist, a producer, an A&R consultant and a publishing executive. “Like what Quincy Jones did with Michael Jackson where you’re an actual executive producer — and a musician — and you’re creating and developing something rather than following a trend,” Andrews continues. “I just saw a hole in the market in that sense.”

She is referring to her work with 20-year-old New Zealander Stella Rose Bennett — professionally known as Benee — whose “Supalonely” (featuring Gus Dapperton) is a bonafide hit at radio, having just entered the top 20, and globally on Spotify where it has reached the top 10. But Andrews’ own experience is not an uncommon tale for developing artists. After uploading a song to MySpace (the TikTok of its time), Andrews spent nearly seven years stuck in artist purgatory on Island Def Jam — then head L.A. Reid signed her on the spot in his office after a brief acoustic performance. “He offered me the deal as soon as I finished singing,” says Andrews. “He was like, ‘Okay, we’re locking all the doors. You’re not leaving.’ ”

In retrospect, it served as apt metaphor for her experience as Andrews felt trapped artistically and professionally. “I worked with every f–ing person under the sun,” she recalls. “I didn’t come in with a definitive production in terms of my ‘sound,’ but I obviously had an idea of what I wanted to do song-wise and what I wanted to say with my lyrics. But at the time, I was nervous about having a voice, you know?” In short: “It wasn’t horrific, but it was definitely a massive life-changing experience.”

These days Andrews is in a position not only to follow her own creative compass but also to ensure that young female artists under her purview never have to compromise. They include Lauren Jauregui (whose music Andrews executive produces for the RECORDS label), Zhavia (Andrews does A&R for Columbia Records), Noah Cyrus (Andrews A&Rs for RECORDS as well as produces and writes with the singer) and Lennon Stella (production, A&R) in addition to the writers represented via TwentySeven Music, a publishing company launched with RECORDS founder Barry Weiss that’s a joint venture with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Benee is signed to Republic.

“At the end of the day, I’ve always battled some sense of the female aspect whether you’re being objectified and constantly judged or your voice isn’t heard because you’re not a man,” says Andrews. “I don’t want to make this too much about the female s–t, but it was intimidating to have an older male A&R person as a young female. It’s always about the way you dress or how old you are. And there was an extra element of fear of someone who had power over you — even though your instincts and your gut may say, ‘I don’t want to,’ you’d be like, ‘Ok, I’ll do it anyway.’ I ended up going in a bunch of different directions. So my whole thing is empowering women because I’ve been able to take a walk down all sort of lanes. Honestly, that is my main mission in life, especially with young females.”

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Jenna Andrews (left) and Benee

But Andrews believes that she’s found not only someone to mentor in Benee but a musical soulmate. “Ask me why I want to work with people and it’s always about identity and authenticity,” she says. “When I met Stella and listened to her songs, I just instantly knew, ‘This girl is the f–ing real deal.’ I wanted in.”

When it comes to art vs. commerce, Andrews notes she’s mainly concerned about the former. “My whole career up to this point has been built around doing real art,” she says. “I’ve never wanted to buy into the machine and do something that I don’t like just for commerce reasons. That’s why I started doing A&R. I want to be a part of projects that I believe in. So my proudest moment is that I met this artist that I truly to my very core believe in and we got a hit with it. That was my dream — it was one of the things on my bucket list. And it means everything to me.”

After initially blowing up on TikTok back in February, the “Supalonely” video is now at 11 million views and counting. On YouTube it’s over 33 million views and on radio it’s amassed nearly 19,000 spins with total impressions of 72 million, according to Mediabase. But the song’s journey up the charts has been anything but traditional. The song was written last summer so the fact that it describes a state of mind that is suddenly universal — because Coronavirus — and has “morphed into a quarantine anthem,” as the Los Angeles Times noted, is what you would call an unhappy accident. “It’s not like we could have predicted a global pandemic,” says Andrews. “Obviously it’s a crazy time in the world, so it’s a light in a dark time.”

They banged out the song in under 20 minutes. “Josh Fountain basically steered the ship in terms of like the production side,” says Andrews. “I’d text some lyrics and then Stella would hop in the booth and try some melodies — we’d go back and forth — and once we go a good handle on it, we went through all the takes and picked out our favorite parts. It was one of the most fulfilling sessions, and I’ve been doing this a long time. At no point did it feel formulated or forced or like we were trying too hard or ‘This doesn’t sound commercial enough’ or ‘This isn’t the right pre-chorus.’ We were just like, ‘This emotes the right feeling and we want to dance to it and we want to cry to it and like, that’s enough.’ That’s what you want music to be.”

Andrews singles out emotional honesty as the “special sauce” in the global smash. “I think that kids want something that doesn’t feel fed to them,” she says. “And what’s more interesting than something authentic? People say, ‘Oh yeah, it’s so much easier now with technology,’ but it’s taken away our humanity in a sense. And the humanity is the part that really speaks to people. Because you can’t program that. And you can’t fake that. At the end of the day, we’re all just looking to connect and Stella was able to do that.”

In the end, it all comes down to Benee’s believability. Says Andrews: “The way she’s like, ‘Supalonely?’ That’s the best. Imagine somebody else having said it in a different intonation — you might not believe them. But because Stella says it with such conviction, you’re like, ‘Okay, this girl is a lonely bitch.’”

Watch the “Supalonely” video below: