Monday, 23 February 2009

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You (Regal 2009)

It’s been 3 years since Lily Allen came along and breezily breathed life into pop, reinvigorating the mockney troubadour, female singer-songwriter and cod-reggae sampling worlds all in one cornucopia of summery fun and frolics, funny and frivolous yet touching and tender at the same time. Since then, her leanings towards being a pop star, the press circus surrounding her every move, the dissections of her every quote, the beholding pop star Lily to higher standards than anyone else when she is rougher round the edges than the likes of Gabrielle Thingy et al have created a personality that borders on self-obsession and coke-choked ego, which makes the weight of this album all the more heavier. The break-up and the miscarriage, the drunken behaviour and wardrobe malfunctions, the loud-mouthing and blogging. What will Lily Allen come out with? Because, in terms of the deification and subsequent destruction, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You...’ trusay blud... trusay.

But what of the music? Oh yeah. Umm... the music. The music. Well, this is Lily Allen popstar. Gone are the funk ticks and deep basslines, the sampling nous and the summery breeziness. This is a pop album. This is Kylie Minogue music fronted by the same Allen. But in the softening of the music, has she softened. Choice of beats aside, her tongue still lashes, in cheek or in vitriol. She has the mouth and the simplicity of delivery to bring some barging lyrics to your ears. Musically, it’s harder to engage with her because she seems lost in the crunch of synths and 80s guitars and bit beats thudding around through hundreds of processors. That mockney raspy toasting singsongy style is lost in the middle. ‘Never Gonna Happen’ is the cloest to ‘Alright Still’ Allen, with its plinky-plonky gypsy skank and screw-you-boy lyrics. The piano-skank of ‘F*** You’ is her clunky but endearing stab at Bush’s exit and preceding antics. It’s fun and poppy, deliriously fist-pumpingly magnetic. The hard processors of ‘The Fear’ and ‘Back to the Start’ seem quite incongruous. There are two albums here: her fun side, the side we all fell for, and the side that says ‘serious popstar thank you’. ‘Everyone’s At It’ is a startlingly honest look at drugs that landed her in trouble. ‘Who’d Have Known’ is the album’s ballad, with its emotive ‘Smile’ factor. ‘Him’ shows growth as a songwriter, both lyrically and in the marriage of her two contrasting styles. ‘He Wasn’t There’ ends the album, a paean to an absent father, sweet and searing all at once. Containing the closest sample bank to her previous work, it works beautifully. This is a transitional album, showcasing Lily Allen: Superstar, caught between her original incarnation and the next step, which is mainstream-takeover. I hope she loses none of her personality in the process, because when it shines through on this album, it works brilliantly; when she settles into her new role as nu-Kylie, it loses the panache and originality and spiky humour that made her so inescapable three years ago.


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