Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You
After the last 2 years of tabloid gossip and paparazzi scoops it’s been quite easy to forget what Lily Allen is actually famous for doing. Her 2006 debut ‘Alright, Still’ whisked her from myspace princess to national star over night and having a famously erratic father didn’t help to quell interest in her either. Hype and tabloid red-top frenzy to one side, ‘Alright, Still’ was a surprisingly brilliant debut album. It offered a fresh new sound and voice that was honest, fun and immediately likeable. Tracks like ‘Smile’, ‘Alfie’ and ‘Littlest Things’ were a breeze of fresh air in the pop world at that time. The production was classy and inventive but still retained a quirky independent feel with it’s reggae tinged samples and uplifting choruses. Miss Allen could never have been accused of mincing her words and in the context of the sound that accompanied them, the lyrics made sense of it all; the two elements complemented each other perfectly. It was a record I just couldn’t help but like.
Fast forward to 2009 and Lily Allen is ready to unleash her second album, the highly anticipated ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You.’ It is immediately obvious that a transformation has taken place here, both visually and sonically, gone are the kooky dresses and street influenced accessories, in is a sleek new hair cut and suspiciously dark apparel. The image surrounding ‘Alright, Still’ was big vibrant colours and a carefree abandonment of all things grown up; it was a happy album and Lily Allen looked happy having made it. This time around she appears to have grown up and wants everyone to know it; but has the music grown up with her?
The album opens with ‘Everyone’s At It’, a swipe at the nations supposed chemical dependence and sees Lily imploring us to just come clean about it. Musically the track is excellent, it’s a big bold feel good tune and starts proceedings off in style with its uplifting keys suiting her voice perfectly. Recent single ‘The Fear’ is up next and is the highlight of the album, I was impressed from the first time that I heard it and repeat listens take nothing away from it. Dealing with the pressure of ’celebrity’ and the ambivalent feelings that she has towards it, the track sounds fresh and new; not over produced but slick and classy at the same time. It’s in the lyrics that I find something nagging at me. One minute she wants “fuck loads of diamonds” the next “when do you think it will all become clear?/Cause I’m being taken over by the fear”. Do we really think she is considering giving up fame and celebrity because it’s messing with her head? Chiny reckon.
‘Not Fair’ opens with country guitars that sound far better than you may think before giving us a chorus worthy of any previous Lily Allen release. It sounds like a grown up brother of ‘Alright, Still’ and sees her penning familiar lyrics on the sexual inadequacies of a boyfriend reminiscent of ’Not Big’ from the aforementioned album. “As I lie here in the wet patch in the middle of the bed/I’m feeling damn hard done by I spent ages giving head” are pure Lily Allen lyrics, truthful but delivered with a wink and a nudge. Unfortunately the album goes rapidly down hill after this more than promising start.
Beginning that trend is ‘22’, which to be honest is pretty lyrically inept and musically the blandest track on the album. Is a young woman’s life over by the time she’s 30? Lily Allen thinks so. The next 3 tracks ‘I Could Say’, ‘Back To The Start’ and ‘Never Gonna Happen’ all deal with relationships in one form or another. ‘I Could Say’ celebrates escaping a stifling boyfriend and the relief that goes with it. ‘Back To The Start’ is a letter of apology to a friend that has been slighted in the past, an appeal to begin the friendship again. The chorus is a pure keyboard driven monster that will surely be remixed and played all over club land in the coming months. The sound of an accordion opens ‘Never Gonna Happen’ thankfully diverting the albums sound away from dull monotony to something a bit more interesting and quirk sum. It has real potential, it just never quite gets there which is a shame.
The less said about ’Fuck You’ the better. It’s a two fingered salute to George W Bush and whilst there is nothing wrong with that it just really has no place here. Take the lyrics away and musically it sounds like a perfect Christmas song, very strange. ‘Who’d Have Known’ has ‘single’ written all over it, laid back beats and piano giving way to an addictive chorus that sets up shop inside your head and refuses to leave. Even if the chorus does sound like one of Take That’s recent hits it’s one of the better tracks on the record. On to ‘Him’, a track about God which, like ‘Fuck You“, deals with a subject matter that seems completely out of place. Lily asks all sorts of questions about him upstairs, such as “Do you think he’d drive his car without insurance?” “Do you think he’s ever taken Smack or Cocaine?” and “Do you reckon he’s ever been done for tax evasion?” Basically it’s rubbish and very, very stupid. I. Never. Want. To. Hear. It. Again.
‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ misfires on many levels, sometimes the music can be unadventurous and lacking, sometimes the lyrics verge on the ridiculous and sometimes the two just don’t work together. It’s a shame because I did really want to like this album but ultimately couldn’t find much to really take from it. Perhaps it’s just the difficult second album hump and we will all be in for a treat next time around? Let’s hope so because I’m sure Lily Allen has much more to offer than this.