So, after the twitter rants, mildly amusing outbursts and protestations about the majority of the industry’s distinct lack of balls, Lily Allen is a woman of conviction. I said in the second part of my LA trilogy that judging by her latest single releases their was a marked lack of ‘meat’ in the singers song choices. Now though, It seems I must perfect my best ‘Simon Cowell got it wrong’ impression (somewhat) because Sheezus does indeed prove that her best music was being held back.
Lily’s previous work, as good as it is, carries a sickly sweet air that even the edgier side of her back catalogue cannot mask. There has always been a cockiness in her songs but that has now been overpowered by a playful, and rather cheeky maturity that one can only assume derives from motherhood. One listen to what Lily has to say over the Nu R’n’B slow electro groove of Miserable Without Your Love, the folky Afrobeat of Life For Me, or the mild Dubstep (can I add ‘Popstep’ to the genre list?) of URL Badman (yes I realise the irony in highlighting that particular song) should be more than enough evidence for the sceptical among you.
Being away from the daily musical grind clearly hasn’t dulled Lily’s senses (after all MTV Base is just a click away) as her recruitment of soon to be super producer DJ Dahi (look him up) corroborates. Yet her twitter dalliances indicate a troubled, or possibly stifled creative spirit that, for one reason or another, isn’t completely happy in her own musical skin, With that in mind I have to ask, has longtime ‘hit’ making partner Greg Kurstin become something of a crutch for her? Has that crutch become a barrier between Lily getting her teeth into some truly edgy music? And is that down to the lady herself or her label?
Parenthood changes your outlook (I speak from experience) and Sheezus is where Lily shows that added depth. The attitude hasn’t gone anywhere but now the subject matter of the songs are relevant to each other as well as the listener. She is an artist of substance and her clever wordplay, witty observations (whether you agree with them or not) and easygoing style must surely be destined for more innovative genre bending compositions.
You can’t profess to shun fame in one line of a song yet start name dropping (negatively or otherwise) on the next. Lily knew full well that the two things that action was always going to attract are attention, and a response (or two). With the recent antics of many of the contenders for the diva throne, is it possible that Lily (or her Parlophone benefactors) thought this the best way to cement her return? Or by spouting lines like Sheezus’ hook, and making videos like Hard Out Here is she just taking the parodical piss?
I do wonder though, why Lily’s bosses decided that, at a time when the very definition of a ‘safe single’ is as loosely defined as it has ever been, it was right to release arguably the albums most lacklustre songs as singles? Somewhere Only We Know is a special case but one look at recent chart trends is all that is needed to ascertain that Sheezus contains much better chart material than Our Time and Air Balloon.
Lily’s vocal style and willingness to tackle a subject in a way that her peers try very hard to avoid, should allow her to approach today’s Urban genres head on. That brash cockney distinctiveness is what sets her apart and I for one cannot understand why that abrasive versatility has not fully been taken advantage of. Be it her bosses or the lady herself, I cannot help but think that someone is missing a trick. Maybe I have lofty ideals for what Lily is capable of. Sheezus has taken Lily part of the way there, maybe next time she will go the rest of the way.