Lily Allen – It’s not me, it’s you

4 stars (out of 5)


The breaking news today is that Lily Allen told MTV she might not make another album.  Six months ago that news wouldn’t have caused me too much heartache but after the difficult second album, I think it would be a big loss to music if she stopped now.  I never really got the Lily thing in 2006 when some critics were claiming that she was the next musical messiah, but  2009’s offering brings  a very different response.

“It’s Not Me, It’s You” moves away from the image of the lovable streetwise Cockney motormouth to show a much more reflective, mature Lily Allen.  The songs are split fairly evenly between social commentary (including the wonderful “The Fear”, which is as good a song as I’ve heard in a long time) and relationships (including one about her relationship with her dad).  The most impressive change in her songwriting, for me, is in the ambiguity of some of the lyrics.  Is “The Fear” about Lily Allen’s attitudes or a satire on others’ attitudes; is “Back To The Start” about her sister or not?  “Everyone’s At It” is a hard-hitting swipe at hypocrisy over drug use where she sabotages her moral stance by admitting her own guilt: “I get involved but I’m not advocating”.

The songs about relationships show us the other side of a life that’s being lived almost entirely in the public eye and giving a new perspective on the stories being used to sell the glossy gossip magazines.  Despite the album title, she’s not trying to put the blame on everyone else in these songs – she’s giving a much more balanced view and showing a willingness to admit that she’s been less than perfect in the situations she describes.  All very mature really.

After social commentary and relationships are dealt with there are two songs left which don’t quite fit the mould.  The first of these, “Him”, is trying to work what happens inside the head of Lily’s god figure.  It’s a difficult idea to carry off and this really reminded me of the Joan Osborne song “One Of Us” which you just couldn’t get away from in 1996.  For me, this didn’t really work, although it was great to know that his favourite band would be Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Interesting as well, that the god figure’s male.

The second odd song on the album is “Fuck You”, or “F**k You” if you try to rip it to Windows Media Player or iTunes (sadly, I tried both).  The musical arrangements on the album are very varied in style and instrumentation and my only major criticism of the album is that goes a little too far at times.  “Fuck You” is a good example of this.  The idea behind it is great – take a really vicious (and very sweary) swipe at someone and make it incredibly catchy so that people can’t help singing along to it.  At first, the cheesy arrangement and the production gimmickry on the vocal was incredibly irritating, but after about the fourth or fifth listen you can’t stop it from popping in to your thoughts at the most inappropriate times.  It’s still irritating despite (or maybe because) it’s so catchy.

This was almost a five star review, but the two odd tracks take a little of the shine off an otherwise excellent album.

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