On her third studio album, Lily Allen is going for the pop jugular once more. Despite the quietness of recent two singles "Air Balloon" and "Our Time", not to mention Keane cover "Somewhere Only We Know", the album's feel is more "Hard Out Here" and "L8 CMMR".
Lily took years off to become a mother, work with activists taking care of the Amazon forests in South America, but she still managed to chart a few hits. In 2011 T-Pain and Whiz Khalifa released '5 O-clock" which used "Who'd Have Known" as its chorus. The track hit the top ten in both the US and UK. Previous to the release of Sheezus singles, she charted "True Love" from P!nk's The Truth About Love, and "Dream a Little Dream" from Robbie William's Swing Both Ways.
The album's opener and title track "Sheezus" is the usual pop reintroduction. Lily's previous album came five years ago, in the form of It's Not Me, It's You. That album was more of a social commentary than Alright, Still, which was more of an obnoxiously fun ode to Allen's crass and argumentative nature. With her second album she tackled sexism, agism, feminism, fame, substance abuse, politics and queer rights. With a string of hits including "The Fear", "Not Fair", "22", "F**k You", "Who'd Have Known" and "Back To The Start", she cemented herself as a force of pop nature, and not just the Myspace-starting, Cheryl Cole-feuding, paparazzi-fodder from the previous years.
It's Not Me, It's You hit the top spot in Australia, Canada, and the UK, and hit number five in the US.
"Sheezus" is ballsy and in your face. In it she name-drops, unsurprisingly, as she discusses being back in the spotlight and the low expectations of pop stardom. In it she mentions her thoughts about her contemporaries. First she mentions her apprehension "Been here before, so unprepared/ Not gonna lie, though/ I'm kind of scared/ The game is changing/Can't dress, come back, jump on the mic and do the same thing".
In its chorus she adds "Riri isn't scared of Katy Perry's roaring/ Queen B's back on the drawing/ Lorde smells blood, yeah, she's about to slay you/ Kid ain't one to f**k with when she's only on her debut/ We're all watching Gaga, LOL ah-ha/ Dying for the art, so, really she's a martyr/ The second best will never cut it for the divas/ Give me that crown bitch, I wanna be Sheezus".
And before she lightens up she adds "I'm ready for all the comparisons/ I think it's dumb and it's embarrassing/ I'm switching off, no longer listening/ I've had enough of persecution and conditioning".
The next three songs, "L8 CMMR", "Air Balloon" and "Our Time" are frivolous fun. The first, which is part of HBO's Girls recent soundtrack, is a simple ode to a relationship whose music has very bouncy and video game-y elements. The song is said to have moombahton elements.
"Air Balloon" is silly but has a great summer vibe to it. The track already hit the top ten in the UK. "Our Time" is mellower, but the lyrics are not about wowing. This is a version of Lily reminiscent of her more reckless and youth-obsessed days. The buzz single saw a music video release but no download available yet.
"Insincerely Yours" starts with a retro, R&B vibe. This track is a reflection of recent networking-site culture. She discusses the insincerity of over sharing online and having to follow everybody's steps whether or not they are famous. She adds that it is awkward to make people feel they know you enough to touch you and want a piece of you when in reality somebody in her position is doing it for the money 'if the price is right'.
"Take My Place" is a sweeter track which keeps the vibe of "Our Time". There is a level of melancholy and the beats move about slowly and rapidly wrapping around the verses and explosive chorus.
"As Long as I Got You" starts with a fun clapping-accordion combination. Then a guitar riff takes over as Lily confidently sings along the instrumental. This is another love song which has a "Faith" by George Michael feel to it.
"Close Your Eyes" keeps the love portion of the album going. In it she mentions Knowles for a second time when she utters 'I'll be Beyonce/ Baby, say my name'. These few tracks are not reinventing any musical wheel, but do keep the album going along confidently and comfortably.
"URL Badman" tackles online-personalities and trolling. Hilarious and eloquent with its word choice. "Silver Spoon" is Lily's way to discuss her musical origin. Unlike "Sheezus", "Spoon" discusses a generic way of being in this day and age when it comes to climbing the ladder and living for material things. Think of a less polished "The Fear".
"Life for Me" reflects on her current life as a married mother of two. 'Why do I feel as if I'm missing something?' She talks about being there and doing that, and not being in the mood to deal with nonsense when being head to toe covered in baby food. "Hard Out Here" was the introduction to this era, late in the autumn. The song discusses sexism and body image issues with female performers in the music industry.
"Somewhere Only We Know" her Keane cover is sweet and very well put-together with its piano arrangement. The single hit the to of the charts in the UK for three nonconsecutive weeks. The original version peaked at #3 in 2004.
Overall, Sheezus, a playful ode to Kanye West's Yeezus, shows the highest concentration of zeal of a pop album in a while. Even looking at the album art and its respective videos one can see the details used to make the whole. On the album cover Lily appears in front of an extravagant home with corgis, with Latin words dictating 'divide and conquer', and 'anything quoted in Latin sounds profound' on the deluxe version.
Not many female artists have churned interesting album concepts in the last few years. And that is okay. That is the point underneath all of Allen's sarcastic and back-handed complements toward her contemporaries. Surely, there is room for everybody, from the mediocre to the mesmerizing. Whether one is a conceptual artist, a lyricist, a producer, a vocalist, or an overall entertainer. "Sheezus" hits on the point that females are not just fighting machines whose sole purpose in life is to be controlled by jealousy and passive-aggrassiveness. Which is where the repetition of 'But then again, I'm just about to get my period. Period; we all get periods...' is an important moment in a young popstar's album unveiling. The last time a menstrual cycle mention made it into a pop tune, was in 2008's "Feedback", where Janet Jackson utters 'I'm serious/ I'm heavier than a first day period'.
The thing is that this female solidarity bit is hard to handle when coming out of Allen's lips. Which is what turns the Lily experience into what it is: witty, overzealous social commentary which allows her to make fun of herself.
Films: Kumu Hina (documentary) : Southern Baptist Sissies, the movie : OFIR (documentary) : Ne Te Retourne Pas (short) : Halina (short) : EK (short) : Despite The Gods (documentary) : Materica (short) : Lawrence and Hollowman, the movie : No Strangers (documentary) : Meth Head, the movie : Echoes (short) : Titans of Newark (short) : A Cure (short) : Precious, the movie : This Is It (documentary)
Music: Ingrid Michaelson's Lights Out : Kelis' Food : The Sounds' Weekend : Austra's Olympia : KENN's We Killed KENN : VV Brown's Samson & Delilah : Sammy Crawford's Reality Sets In : Melanie C's Stages : Madonna's MDNA : Nelly Furtado's Spirit Indestructible : CocoRosie's "We Are On Fire" : Stephan Nance's A Troubled Piece of Fruit
Stand Up: Kevin J Thornton