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Lily

Sheezus

Lily Allen - 2014

In 2009, Lily Allen released her second album, 'It's Not Me, It's You'. It was a massive success for her at home and abroad and critics alike generally agreed that Ms. Allen was edging closer to being considered pop royalty. And then suddenly and apologetically, she buggered off - truly an act of disappearance that only Lily Allen could fashion to fit so well. Three years after her 'final' live performance, Lily Allen Cooper, now a wife and mother, reappeared and announced she was relaunching her music career. It was probably the least stirring comeback announcement ever, especially from someone who had left their career while on top. See, the musical landscape had changed and where a newly subdued, partied out, matured mother of a Lily Allen fit in, nobody knew. She seemed to encourage the 'ehhhhhh?', coming from fans and foes alike by referring to her new creative endeavor as a 'mum-back'. So what exactly was Allen going to offer on this new album as an older, calmer and more responsible now mother, when last we knew of her she was lamenting a life of sunrises fueled by 'putting shit up our noses', complaining of mans pre-ejaculation problem, saying 'Fuck You' to the president of America and contemplating how God is probably depressed given the current state of the world? Would Lily Allen still come across as relevant and would she have anything to speak to in her new adult life? Fortunately, this question of relevance is set upon in response by that which endears her to her fans - her ability to command a song and soak subjects in sarcasm through her word play. On Sheezus, as in her last two albums, her fantastically sarcastic, cheeky, witty and honest lyrics continue to be the highlight of her work and that which has her towering miles above anyone else in the pop idiom. When you listen to Lily Allen you hear the undiluted truth according to her with no apologies for the sometimes off beat humor. It's not that she's shocking or controversial - there's nothing she's ever touched on that's going to cause an uproar - it's just that she's honest. When you listen to Lily Allen you get the impression that she would pretty much have the same persona, worry about the same things and have the same attitude if you met her in person. So, back to relevance. Would her lyrical foreplay amount to a climax for the album as a whole? Was she someone that was still worth a listen to? Via the prowling slow groove of the more than appealing opening and title track, Lily clearly wishes to speak directly to these questions, her career jump start and how she fits in to the music scene of present day. Overall, her response is a mixed bag of sorts. There's the confidence laced with idling insecurity in knowing that she's found success previously and knows what it's going to take to procure it again ('I'll take the hits, roll with the punches/I'll get back up it's not as if I've never done this'); the realization that she needs to adapt to discover a new musical her inside this new musical landscape ('But then again the game is changing/Can't just come back, jump on the mic and do the same thing'). All of this works well and is convincing with the help of a safe, yet catchy melody that lacks any opportunities for her to fail as a vocalist on her opening track. Unfortunately, playing musical catch up turns from self realization to a disappointing attempt to force her way back into the top echelon of the female pop gene instead of earning her stripes again. The repetition in the choruses of her name dropping of current successful female pop artists (Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Lorde, Beyoncé) comes across as horrifically desperate and sad. As she ties up her nods to these other artists she points out that now she's back she wants, 'that crown bitch. I wanna be Sheezus'. The nod to Kanye is just a touch to far and I think it's more so because she titled the album as such. As the title of one track it could have been amusing but trying to make it the focal point, the big humorous of the entire album stretches the joke way beyond its reach. The extreme variance in quality of the opening track via the lyrical content is fortunately and unfortunately as controversial as the album gets. Truly, it's all up and up from this point on. As one might suspect, the album does direct us into the life of Lily as a happier adult that's in love, married and a mother. Three of the twelve songs speak to this and they are all exceptionally fun celebrations of her new role in love and in a very contrasting life to her past. In her speaking on the subjects she avoids being overly cliche, mushy and boastful in exaggeration (ie my life is soooo perfect now). Actually, she's quick to point out that not all that she has now amounts to a garden of roses. She still reminisces of the wild night life she used to maintain in the rhythmic guitar popping island groove of Life For Me. On the track she admits some envy as she stalks her friends on Facebook that are still out on the lash every weekend (Everyone looks so wasted/Totally of their faces/I feel so isolated/Everyone there but me). However, in the chorus she admits to herself that she's 'been there and done that and it's good for nothing/Everything's perfect yeah I'm as content as can be/This is the life for me'. She goes on to describe the new challenges she faces as a mother drained at times in caring for her baby but confesses that rather that exhaustion have the better of her than one of a self imposed, drug dictated sleep deprivation. It's a fantastically conveyed honest and brutal reality that is brought to joyful life in the upbeat track. As Long As I Got You is another bouncy uplifting track who's title gives away its substance. It comes across as a sort of bluesy one chord verse that's highlighted by some oddly spot on accordion work. This then explodes into a country shuffle chorus with slide guitar galore as she admits to a husband 'Staying home with you/Is better than sticking things up my nose'. Again, she is quick to point that her man is less than perfect and it's the imperfections that brings her comfort. On the dance hall/funky fare of L8 CMMR she again speaks of her man but has fun at her own expense - 'Look at my ring/He's going nowhere 'till this fat lady sings'. These tracks are standard Lily fare in their very matter of fact way. She's in love. She's happy. It's not perfect but miles away from a time that she described herself as being lost. Fortunately, Lily doesn't bore us to death with an album of 'look at my life now'. On URL Badman she takes on the persona of an internet troll and through taking their hard line stance to what they think is acceptable online behavior, shows through sarcasm how delusional and defective their thinking is as this Badman claims he's a 'real talker' here to 'put the world the world to right'. This Badman likes to think of himself as a 'broadband champion' and a 'keyboard warrior (that can't spell)', and when he comes across people with opposing opinions to his, he puts his 'high brow game plan to action' by writing about how 'worthless' they are. By addressing the internet bullying subject in this manner, Lily does a better job of conveying how ridiculous and void of empathy these people as compared to just a full on attack of them. The music is a perfect partner to this character as the track strives to take itself rather seriously with a piano part in the verse that wants to be delicate and sensitive but ultimately comes across as cliche and contrived and a chorus that's rather bruising in its minor tonality but is brought to absurdity by these hidden and sporadic cries of a sheep in the background. The contrast in the music matches perfectly with the contrast between what this Badman thinks he is and what he really comes across as. On the brilliant track, Silver Spoon, Lily goes head to head with the argument that she only ever found musical success due to her prestigious, posh and spoiled upbringing. Again, how she tackles the issue is by embracing it full on. Through giving false credence to all the rumors of her past and then using mass exaggeration when it comes to her background she makes those that spin the rumor mill look absurd. In pretending to be this character of high influence through a highly sarcastic tone and tongue in cheek lyrics it makes us not only root for the true Lily but also for this fake persona that the rumors created and Lily then acts out as. Lines such as 'Only made it here because of my Daddy/Fuck your tea bags yo, where's my tea caddy?', are brilliantly delivered over the mean spirited, serious and minor tone that the music takes. The track comes across as though to push her on lest she dares to back down - it's her coach if you will. The pulsating march of the music represents well the war between the truth of the matter, Lily as she truly is, and this false representation of her. It would not be out of place in a movie montage of a boxer training for their final battle royale. Lily does break character in the chorus just to remind everyone that despite her playing up to these suggestions of a very advantaged life, 'you don't know me'. The highlight of the album is easily Insincerely Yours. The groove and musical styling of the track are a fantastic homage to 90's hip hop and in particular Warren G's, Regulate. Here, Lily drops the sarcastic tone and delivers scathing commentary about having to put up with Z-list celebrities that the media conjures up to make a quick sell simply because they are pretty. She questions what these people have done to be celebrated outside of being beautiful and apparently rather stupid (it's the same argument Americans have with the Kardashian's being famous for absolutely nothing). Here, ambivalence to these people only having superficial niceties to boast about instead of talent is especially obvious. 'I don't give a fuck about your Instagram/About your lovely house or your ugly kids.' She goes on to attack the new fad of people hiring DJ's based solely on their Z-list status instead of their abilities to spin. 'Whatever happened to the real DJs/Cause the chick you've paid can't mix for shit...Does anybody know what she does?/Do you know her name, do you really care?' Her hatred for these people of no talent but much celebrity comes to a boil when Lily describes having to attend events (and she blatantly admits that most events are a chance to make money) where these Z-listers are also in attendance and try to schmooze with her. 'I'm not your friend and I can't pretend...If I force a smile, I can make it worthwhile/Don't touch me honey/Let's be clear/I'm here/I'm here to make money...' The track works on every level and shows that Lily is diverse in her music styles and can come at you head on when something really drives her to hate. Being on a self-imposed musical hiatus does show up ever so slightly throughout the album. The use of auto-tune on two tracks (L8 CMMR and Hard Out Here), merely for effect rather than need, sounds dated and is a poor attempt to play catch up. Air Balloon, although a fun track about escaping life through absurdity, is obviously influenced by MIA, whose sound now, only years young, sounds a bit dated. However, all that made her second album, It's Not Me, It's You, great is still present and accounted for. Lily continues to show that she is more than capable of incorporating any music genre into her pop-wise ways. Country shuffle, island grooves, anthem-like ballads, (Our Time, where she shows she can still get out an enjoy an evening on the town), hip hop, and so much more - it's all in here and this embrace of different styles in her music is what makes her such a standout. How she addresses her audience remains her forte, even if at times it's hard to know if she's being serious or sarcastic (Close Your Eyes is a mystery...however, if it is Lily being serious then it's a rather embarrassing attempt at being sexy). Unfortunately, the ending of the album proves to be it's achilles heal. There we find the final track and first single, Hard Out Here. It's not a closing track at all and seems as though it was just thrown in at the end. It's as though she wrote the entire album and then right at the end of the process found this radio friendly track in the corner and decided it's a potential hit so we'll just throw it on the album....but where? 'Just throw it on at the end.' The track is one of the weakest in terms of everything and although Lily speaks to the important issue of the inequality that women face in a male dominated industry, the way she attacks it comes across as immature and cliche. Overall the album is a smart, diverse and strong return for Mrs Lily Allen Cooper and only in parts does it falter. She's still exceptionally clever in her delivery, works well with a voice that's never going to over awe, and through Sheezus, shows us again that she's at the top of the pop game. Welcome back Lily!

Posted by Andrew Scott

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Comments

I agree with the vast majority of your points here! Each of them highlight the fact that this is a 2 star album at best and a zero star album by Lily Allen standards! I'd call it an embarrassment but it's actually so much worse. With Sheezus, Allen has shown us that her art is now entirely dead. Hey, at least we've got the first couple of albums for comfort at this sad time. Expect dozens of guest appearances on the next record.

Posted over 4 years ago by Dsc 0563C. Scott

Posted: 07/07/2014