Lily Allen: It’s Not Me, It’s You

By Team JamBase Feb 17, 2009 8:57 pm PST

By: Dennis Cook

I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever/ I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they’re trying to find them
And I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless
‘Cause everyone knows that’s how you get famous

Lily Allen is quite the cheeky lil’ minx. Since I’m over 30 and American, I sort of consciously missed her 2007 hit debut, Alright, Still, but two years on she’s developed into one of the more fascinating mainstream artists today. Her sophomore offering, It’s Not Me, It’s You (released February 10 on Capitol Records), coalesces the dance floor malaise of Donna Summer and New Order, the whack-pop chirp of early Kate Bush and the grand fromage of ABBA, all delivered in a voice caught somewhere between a ’40s silk dress songbird and Oliver Twist’s distaff sibling.

What’s most immediately striking about It’s Not Me is the caliber of lyrical acumen, especially for someone so young (she’s just 23). The bullet train swiftness of modern life has given her a lovely jaundiced POV that makes for some mighty swell verses and hooky-to-the-point-of-madness choruses. Take for example, the sing-along snark of “Not Fair,” one the finest smackdowns of a thoughtless lover ever, an anthem for anyone who’s been left “lying in the wet patch in the middle of the bed” after spending “ages giving head” :

When we go up to bed you’re just no good/ It’s such a shame
I look into your eyes/ I want to get to know you
And then you make this noise and it’s apparent it’s all over
It’s not fair, and I think you’re really mean
Oh, you’re supposed to care that you’ve never made me scream
And it’s really not ok/ It’s really not ok

The set is about three-fourths of the way there, and three cuts are utter Kate Hudson/airplane movie montage crapola (“Chinese,” “Back To The Start,” “I Could Say”), but they stink of major-label-minded caution, the safeties to offset Allen’s growing wild streak. Plumbing her recesses on It’s Not Me one discovers a saucy, oddball girl with oodles of brains and a real facility with profanity. Smarts and a dirty mouth are a powerful combination, and Allen uses what she’s got to get what she wants on the majority of this bubbly album. From the robot’s tango of “Never Gonna Happen” to the self-medication meditation “Everyone’s At It,” there’s a good deal of insight and humor to Allen’s work, and every cut is delivered with a Phil Spector-ish circus of sounds – everything is so bloody colorful in her world. Her black streak cuts the potential treacle for the most part, and her more sincere bits work best – as on the tender, just-falling-in-love “Who’d Have Known” – when she plays to her age a bit. She’s hip and now but she’s also really fucking young. This works to her advantage when she taps into the sweetness of her years as well as the intrinsic irreverence of her generation. However, there are intimations of really whopping great songwriter here. If the already cited lyrics don’t argue the case well enough, here’s one more burst from “Him,” a chuckly rumination on what God might be like if he were walking around today that one suspects ol’ Randy Newman would appreciate:

Do you think his favorite type of human is Caucasian
Do you reckon he’s ever been done for tax evasion
Do you think he’s any good at remembering names
Do you think he’s ever taken smack or cocaine
I don’t imagine he’s ever been suicidal
His favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival

What differentiates Lily Allen from the vast majority of artists churned out by the star maker machine is the undeniable sense of individuality and personality woven into what is still clearly commercial-mainstream fare. She’s a big weirdo with an appealing potty mouth and a head full of big ideas, and right now I’m kind of in love with It’s Not Me, It’s You. I’m also fully aware that it may be a fleeting romance, a pixie stick, so delicious at first but eventually just a tummy ache producing sugar high. Too early to say but for now I’m willing to let myself be swayed and suspect I won’t be the only one.

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