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Artist Spotlight: Stela Cole crafts new genres with her unmistakable style 

In nearly six years, Stela Cole's musical career has featured an impressive range of styles and influences. The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter will end her year-long hiatus from the music industry with "Die Hard," a single set for release on Jan. 26. 

Stela Cole is the stage name of prolific artist Hollyn Shadinger. 2022 was a banner year for the musician -- her monthly listeners and social media following reached an all-time high, culminating in her strongest streaming year to date. 

However, Shadinger felt mentally and emotionally detached from herself. Feeling overwhelmed and uninspired, she took 2023 to address her mental health, exit her label deal and detox from social media in favor of playing her guitar and listening to her favorite records. The result of this break is "Die Hard," her most creative and stunning work so far. 

The dark pop single is about how "tumultuous relationships can feel like an endless cycle, especially when pain is disguised as passion," said Shadinger. "This is something I struggled with for a long time. I'd let myself fall for someone I knew wasn't good for me, and even in moments of courage, I'd pack my bags and somehow end up right back where I started. Sometimes, habits take an entire lifetime to break. "Die Hard" is about my experience of consistently choosing the wrong path with the wrong people … even when I know where it ends." 

"Die Hard" was created by a core group of collaborators, including the award-winning Eliot Lee and Maya Sasson as music video directors and Noah Gonzalez as the singer's counterpart in the surreal and beautifully shot visual accompaniment to the song. 

Unofficial collaborators on Cole's new song are her inspirations, ranging from Fleetwood Mac to Tame Impala to The Eagles. These sounds shine through on her tracks, exemplifying a creative rebirth for the artist. 

"Die Hard" is a thoughtful auditory metaphor for the repetitive habits of which the song was born. The singer leaves it all on the table with her flawless vocals and delicate and refined acting in the equally impressive music video. The song features passionate singing supported by gritty yet polished pop instrumentals that demonstrate growth, as well as a maintained connection to her roots. 

The starting point of Cole's eventual evolution is her first single, "You F O." The song is a riveting demonstration of the artist's bold and distinct style. On "You F O.," she combines the mouth percussion and brass section of a '50s ballad, an ethereal drum machine of EDM and lyrics and vocals of the pop genre. This fusion of concepts weaves a tapestry of artistic bravery and passion that few debuts manage. 

"Woman of the Hour" highlights Cole's deeply passionate and soulful vocals, as well as introduces an indie sound to her style, similar to that of Lorde. "Love Like Mine" introduces the influence of artists like Amy Winehouse, as well as percussion, strings and piano, which give the song a jazzy aura. "The Day It Rained in Southern California" is more melancholy, featuring nothing but plucked guitar and stunning vocals in the beginning, then slowly introducing higher energy percussion to match the passion of her poetic and soulful vocal delivery. 

Cole's music is always interesting to listen to. Her penchant for unusual techniques, like trilling notes and impressive whistle notes in the background rather than as the focal point of a song, gives her music a dynamic and unique style. This is illustrated in "Goldrush," which utilizes all the classic elements of pop music, such as drum machines, but with a unique spin on the genre. 

"I Shot Cupid" marks the beginning of Cole's deviation from her established style. Followed by similar songs like "DIY" and "Rhapsody In Pink," the track introduces a new high-energy pop style to her discography. These songs feature enthusiastic accompaniments with her soulful voice but less creative artistry from the singer/songwriter. 

With over 55 million streams on Spotify, "I Shot Cupid" is Cole's most popular song. "DIY" earned her a spot in the semi-finals of the "American Song Contest" in 2022. Both songs feature cheeky and empowering lyrics, and while not as classically motivated as her early work, they both made strides in the music industry as modern trailblazers.

Cole's return to the world of music is both an inspired piece of art and a motivation for those struggling to balance the strongest forces in their lives. "Die Hard" is a refreshing track from the multitalented performer and an exciting view into what she has in store. 


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