Thursday, March 5, 2009

Assessment! Lily Allen

God likes folksy Southern rock.
At least that is, according to Lily Allen.

On her second, more introspective album, It’s Not Me It’s You, Allen moves beyond conversations in the pub, to ruminate on more serious issues such as prescription drug abuse, family relationships, and metaphysical musings about God. “Him” asks some not-so-big-picture questions like, “Come election time who do you think He would he vote for?” and “Do you think He’s any good at remembering names?” and even definitively announces, “His favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival.” (God Are You There? It’s Me Proud Mary.)

Don’t let the subject matter fool you though; Allen’s private life in song is largely set to a dance soundtrack that puts the boogie first and pain second. Just as on her first album Alright, Still, Allen’s upbeat sound and sweet voice coat a bitter commentary, “So your daughters depressed, we’ll get her straight on the Prozac, but little do you know she already takes crack.” The world through Lily Allen’s big brown eyes is sometimes pessimistic, but listening to her school girl voice, you can’t help skipping through the tarnished landscape with a smile.

The album’s standout track is her first single “The Fear” with a disco dance beat and colorful electronic groove that recalls sounds of Joy Division. The song is a sharp, acerbic commentary on the celebrity and fame obsessed culture that has used her as tabloid fodder, from the opening line, “I want to be rich and I want lots of money,” to a later observation, “Life’s about film stars and less about mothers/ It’s all about fast cars and cussing each other/But it doesn’t matter because I’m packing plastic/And that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic.”

And like in the video for this single, on her sophomore effort, Allen releases her personal burdens like a bundle of brightly colored balloons. She exposes her relationships, beliefs and sexual desires as unabashedly as she once exposed her now famous third nipple.

In “Back To The Start” video game-esque noises offer repentance for past mistakes and a plea to start fresh with her older sister, and “He Wasn’t There,” the album’s closing swinging jazz ditty, details her troubled past with her father.

Even more confessional is “Not Fair,” a twangy country two-stepper in which Allen repeatedly laments, “You never make me scream,” to a man who apparently never heard the wisdom Alec Baldwin had to offer in the film Outside of Providence, “Making sex is like a Chinese dinner: It ain't over 'til you both get your cookies.”
And speaking of Chinese food, this album marks a distinct change in attitude, as on tracks like “Chinese,” Allen has calmed down her party-girl life style to spend a night in watching TV and eating take-out.

In this same Adele, Sara Bareilles female singer/songwriter style, “Who’d Have Known,” is about a friendship that unexpectedly turns into something more, as she shyly sings with a giggle in her voice, “And today you accidentally, called me baby.”Allen not only broadens her lyrics, but her music style, moving beyond a pop/reggae hook to electro-synth pop, piano rock, and Slavic accordion beats (“Never Gonna Happen”).

It’s Not Me, It’s You sounds like one of the boldest break-up lines I’ve ever heard, and in the way the album does chronicle a break-up. Not only of Allen with her former live-in boyfriend Ed Simons of the Chemical Brothers (“I Could Say”- I’m only assuming), but with the pigeon-holing media and her cynical attitude. The album presents a more mature Allen, who’s self-assured, but not completely lacking the signature feisty, fuck you approach (literally naming one Carpenter’s inspired, 70’s pop sounding song “Fuck You”) that made us all love her so much in the first place. Truer to the name than Madonna, Lily Allen’s album is full of Confessions on [the] Dance Floor.

And a personal note to my fellow lady bloggers: Goonies Never Say Die!

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