There has been a steady stream of top-notch female musicians coming out of the UK these last few years that have taken the world by storm with the force of their voices and remarkable expression. The sassy, unrepentant voice of Amy Winehouse, the stunning soul of Duffy (at least on her debut), the fierce passion and humungous talent of Adele, the brilliance of Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine…I could go on. And there’s Lily Allen – easily the funniest of them all and no less talented. And like one or two in that list, no less a child of controversy, but that’s not surprising from a daughter of hell-raiser comedian Keith Allen.
Lily Allen started on the path of critical and popular success on MySpace with a set of demos, much like Kate Nash (add her to that list above). I was impressed with ’Smile’ and ‘LDN’ from her debut album ‘Alright, Still’ although I didn’t get myself that album – don’t ask me why. But when her sophomore effort came out, there was no such lapse.
It’s easy to be taken in by the softness of her voice and sway to her terrific pop sensibility. But listen closer and there’s savage humour in there that can cut. It’s this peculiar combination of very sharp songwriting slipped in on an understated voice that makes me come back to this record time and again.
This is a record of our times and not necessarily pretty. It starts right from the unapologetic album title ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’. ‘Everyone’s At It‘ takes a look at the easy but dangerous reaching out of the stress of our daily lives.
So your daughter’s depressed,
We’ll get her straight on the prozac.
But little do you know,
She already takes crack.
Why can’t we all, All just be honest,
Admit to ourselves, That everyone’s on it.
From grown politicians, To young adolescents,
Prescribing themselves, Anti-depressants.
‘22‘ deals with young burn-out, how 30 seems to be new 50, or even 60.
When she was 22 the future looked bright
But she’s nearly 30 now and she’s out every night
I see that look in her face, she’s got that look in her eye
She’s thinking how did I get here and wondering why
It’s sad but it’s true how society says her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
My two favorites from the album though are ‘The Fear’ and ‘Not Fair‘, both gems of songwriting. Sample this for a short ride down the celeb pathway from ‘The Fear’:
Life’s about film stars and less about mothers
It’s all about fast cars and cussing each other
But it doesn’t matter cause I’m packing plastic
And that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic
And I am a weapon of massive consumption
And its not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function
I’ll look at the sun and I’ll look in the mirror
I’m on the right track, yeah we’re on to a winner
Forget about guns and forget ammunition
‘Cuz I’m killing them all on my own little mission
Now I’m not a saint but I’m not a sinner
Now everything is cool as long as I’m getting thinner
‘Not Fair’ is absolutely brilliant talking about the ‘inadequacy’ of her man, all delivered in the seemingly harmless wrapping of country-style sound. Men, squirm!
Oh, he treats me with respect,
He says he loves me all the time,
He calls me 15 times a day,
He likes to make sure that I’m fine,
You know I’ve never met a man,
Whose made me feel quite so secure,
He’s not like all them other boys,
They’re all so dumb and immature.
There’s just one thing,
That’s getting in the way,
When we go up to bed your just no good,
It’s such a shame!
I look into your eyes,
I want to get to know you,
And then you make this noise,
And it’s apparent it’s all over
Oh, dear! I should turn on the PG rating on this one 🙂
I read recently that Lily Allen’s next one is going to be a country album. That should burn down a few barns, I expect.