Tag Archives: Lily Allen

Lily Allen

Sorry I skipped another week! No excuses, no excuses. Let’s just jump right into this week’s post, shall we?

This week I’m going to talk about some selections from Lily Allen’s sophomore album It’s Not Me, It’s You. The reason I’m not doing the entire album is because, well, it’s kind of boring. At least to me. Yes, Allen showed a lot of maturity in her songwriting and themes compared to her debut album , but sonically, there’s nothing really interesting going on. It’s an ordinary pop album. It’s mostly forgettable. But there are 3 stand out tracks I’ll be discussing here.

The first is the succinctly-titled “Fuck You,” which preceded CeeLo Green’s track of the same name by 2 years. The song has a couple of different origin stories, the first being that the song was written about the BNP (an extreme right-wing political group in the UK). The second origin story, and a much more interesting one in my opinion, starts with a song being initially titled “Guess Who Batman.” GWB. George W. Bush. Listen to the lyrics and it’s obvious that’s who the song is about. “You want to be like your father/It’s approval you’re after”? I mean, come on. Allen might have played it a little coy though because the song was first previewed on Myspace in 2008, but it didn’t come out on the album until 2009 – George W. was on his way out while Obama was on his way in. So there’s that.

The music video isn’t very interesting. This is pretty much the case with all the Allen videos from this album and even the ones from Alright, Still. This one in particular is kind of petty and has nothing to do with the themes of the song at all. Here it is anyway.

Next up is “Not Fair,” one of my favorites from this album. I still find myself returning to and enjoying it. It’s got an distinct sound right away that instantly makes you wonder if this is supposed to be a country track. It’s a great fusion of pop music with country themes that makes it stand out from the rest. Also, it’s about being in an otherwise perfect relationship that is sexually unsatisfying. Like REALLY sexually unsatisfying. I like that there’s this brief back and forth that goes on in her head where she’s asking herself if she’s just being picky (she’s not), and the frustration that comes through in the chorus is great. The video is cool thematically and fits with the sound of the track, but other than that, it’s nothing spectacular.

Lastly, we’ve got my other favorite track from this album, “The Fear.” This is one of her smartest songs, in my opinion (but then I haven’t heard anything post-It’s Not Me besides “Hard Out Here” which was a total failure as a commentary-style track). Allen adopts this character throughout the song who’s mindlessly overfed themselves on pop culture to the point of being jaded (“I am a weapon of massive consumption/It’s not my fault, it’s how I’m programmed to function”). This is made eerily clear to us early on in the song though (“I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds/I heard people die while they’re trying to find them”). This song tackles every issue related to pop culture that, even though it wasn’t that long ago, still holds true today (“Everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner”). Also, the acoustic version is fantastic – just Lily, a piano, and a guitar.

Sadly, for a song this powerful, I think the music video fails again. It just feels like Allen couldn’t decide on an emotion (total disinterest would have been my advice) much less focus on whatever she was supposed to be doing. The direction is also not that great. There are some weird cuts and when interesting things are happening, we don’t get to look at them long enough before the angle changes or the camera jumps to another shot. I’ve got a totally different vision for this video, but it’s not worth describing because, well, music videos are visual and this one is kind of complicated. Plus, that’s not what this post is about. So here’s the official video!

I don’t really recommend this album in general. I mean, give it a listen and preview it by whatever means you can, but these are the only tracks I would spend money on (if I hadn’t already spent money on the whole thing ages ago myself).

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Hard Out Here

So just about everyone’s talking about Lily Allen’s latest and long-overdue song “Hard Out Here”  – or more specifically they’re talking about the music video.

The song is pretty clear in its meaning: Women are objectified in pop culture and in the music industry and face a deluge of double standards in nearly every aspect of life. It’s pretty Feminism 101. Which is a good thing! People need to hear this constantly, need to fully understand it, and when it comes from a pop star, the message may actually have a chance of getting through to them because it’s someone they know and (possibly) like.

Unfortunately, as many, MANY people have already pointed out, the song and video fall both short of being what Rolling Stone has called “A feminist anthem through and through…” I mean, right after singing “Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain” she then goes on with “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut.” So much for defeating the double standard.

I won’t say too much about the video that hasn’t already been said (Seriously, Google it.), but I will say that having read about it beforehand, I did feel uncomfortable watching parts of the video. Specifically parts that focused on her black background dancers pouring champagne on each others’ asses while twerking wildly. I get it, you’re trying to do a parody of rap videos, but it really, really fails as a parody. There’s nothing to signify those parts as parody other than the assumption that we’re just supposed to know, as apologists and defenders seem to be pointing out just about everywhere, via the lyric “And if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood.” Okay, but that doesn’t mean that it’s GOOD at sarcasm. It doesn’t help that Lily Allen basically pulled the old “I’m not racist – I have black friends!” card.

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to go on too long about the video and I feel like I have. Read the other articles! They all make really good points.

I will say this though: I love that she parodies the pop culture events that were Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s separate and then combined songs/performances. Especially Robin Thicke. That guy deserves every single criticism for his gateway misogynistic song. Stick it to him, Lily! (The reference to “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” is nice too.)

So how could she have succeeded? Aside from fixing a few lyrics, I think the video itself could have been better without changing too much. This fantastic Atlantic article suggests that the background singers could have joined Allen in dropping the act at the end. I think the video could have gone a step further. I realize this is going to be treading old ground, but just hear me out. What if they were literally all puppets of the patriarchal music industry? There were strings attached to them and her pervy old manager was the puppet master?

Yeah, I know, I know, ‘N Sync made pop culture history with a video that (basically) already did that. But it’s the first thing I thought of! And it’s a start. Lily and her dancers could still be twerking and acting like sexual objects, but maybe with blank, dead-eyed looks, without emotions or feelings. Sure, it’s a bit on the head, but so is the song itself. Let’s be honest, these lyrics aren’t going to incite the next wave of feminism, but hopefully they’ll get some more people talking and – more importantly – listening.

For a much better Lily Allen song that’s commentary on pop/consumer culture, I recommend “The Fear.” (Although I think even THAT video could be better too – Not that it’s problematic, because it really isn’t, but Lily looks like she’s having too much fun in a song that’s supposed to be morbidly serious.) Go check it out!

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