It may have been five years since Lily Allen‘s last album but the sharp-witted English artist is still pop’s MVP for a reason.
After taking a few years off to start a family, Lily returns with Sheezus: a grown ass woman’s album that shows her in her finest lyrical fighting form yet but, disappointingly, also her most musically apathetic.
Lily sounds completely in her element addressing issues in pop culture that are personal to her and relevant to us. Sheezus nails it all on the cross for you to see: sexism and desperation in the music industry, internet trolls, and – whether you’re ready for it – domestic bliss.
The opening track ‘Sheezus’ does more than fanfare her apprehensive return to music, it hears Gladiator Lily circling the Colloseum eyeing her “competitors” and questioning why female pop stars are pit against each other by the media.
She observes: “RiRi isn’t scared of Katy Perry’s roaring, Queen Bey’s gone back to the drawing. Lorde smells blood yeah, she’s about to slay you. Kid ain’t one to fuck with, when she’s only on her debut. We’re all watching Gaga, LOLOHAHA! Dying for the art so really, she’s a martyr. Second best would never cut it for the divas. Give me the crown, bitch. I wanna be Sheezus!”
Watch the music video for Lily Allen‘s ‘Sheezus’:
Everyone with Wordpress and Twitter these days is a critic.
On ‘URL Badman’ Lily skips the rim job and goes where no pop star has gone before by poking fun at arrogant, so-called authorities on art (I say this with great ease because I know there’s no way in fuck she’s addressing someone with such ‘low brow’ tastes like me).
She sings: “It’s not for me, it must be wrong. I could ignore it and move on but I’m a broadband champion – a URL Badman. And if you’re trying to call it art, I’m gonna have to take it all apart. I got a high brow game plan. A URL Badman!”
On a production level, this is one of the more on-point moments on the album. Lily’s long-time producer Greg Kurstin renders the track with an almost ‘ironically trendy’ dubstep touch and cuts of sheep bleating. You get the symbolism. It’s tongue-in-cheek but also done with such great finesse that it actually sounds like a workable single, which is more than can be said about the redundant ‘Our Time’.
Watch the music video for Lily Allen‘s single ‘Our Time’:
I completely get Lily’s strategy of despatching mass appealing radio-ready records and save the hard-hitting stuff for her followers. But she’s never had to settle for throwaway lyrics about partying in the past to get airplay. The benchmark sits where ‘The Fear’, ‘Not Fair’ and ‘LDN’ are – strong pop tunes, clever lyrics and lively production.
The only point where Sheezus excelled in delivering buoyant pop is in the UK Top 10 smash ‘Air Balloon’, produced by Shellback (who did Cher Lloyd‘s ‘Want U Back‘). The nursery rhyme, sing-song melodies went delightfully well with the handclaps and tinkling baby piano keys. This would be a record dem high brow folks like to call a “guilty pleasure”, a term that doesn’t exist in my books.
What’s truly standing in the way of Sheezus slaying are the mid-tempos with forgettable melodies padding out the record and the dated productions.
Sonically, I’m quite surprised that Lily and Greg have gone stuck with trends the majority of us have dragged to the recycle bin four years ago. Why is Autotune is still happening on tracks like ‘L8 CMMR’ and ‘Hard Out Here’? It’s surely too soon for its third or fourth mainstream resurgence.
Even though Lily and Greg’s work together has always set her music apart from her trend-thirsty peers, it probably wouldn’t hurt for her to keep up with the times.
Stand out tracks: ‘Sheezus’, ‘URL Badman’, ‘Air Balloon’ and ‘Life for Me’.