Thank goodness for MySpace, without which Lily Allen would probably be an obscure struggling artist. Lucky for her, the constant in-your-face, every-time-you-sign-on promotion technique that Myspace uses has brought her from obscurity to a having a number one single on the British charts (“Smile”) as well as a spot performing in the JBB/PUMA Arena at the V 2006 Festival this year on August 20th (Weston Park, Staffordshire, UK) and 21st (Hylands Park, Chelmsford, UK).
Lucky for me, thanks to a recent trip to England (sadly during which Lily Allen was not playing out) I was able to pick up her funky debut Alright Still before it came out in “The States.” (Total bragging rights. I just love being ahead of the trend.) It’s a quirky mix of Pop, Ska, a bit of Reggae, some Hip Hop and R& B influence, and in general, just plain fun.
“Smile,” the first single that’s being played non-stop on English radio, is a Pop-y number in which Allen sings about how good it feels when an ex’s new relationship falls apart right before your eyes, making them realize how good they had it with you. She sings, “At first when I see you cry it makes me smile, yeah it makes me smile” and her ‘I told you so, now fuck off’ attitude makes me smile right along with her.
“Knock ‘Em Out” is a quirky track, slightly reminiscent of fellow Brits The Streets, about the comedy involved with girls going out and the dopey guys that hit on them. She fantasizes about telling this guy, who clearly thinks he’s hot shit and will not take no for an answer, that unfortunately she’s three months pregnant and won’t be able to out with him (after he buys her a drink, that is). “You can’t knock ’em out, you can’t walk away / Try desperately to think of the politest way to say/ Just get out my face, just leave me alone/ and no you can’t have my number ‘cos I lost my phone…” Sadly, sometimes it is easier just to make up some lame excuse.
My favorite track is “Everything’s Just Wonderful.” The beat is quite funky and Allen’s rant about just how fucked up the British tabloids are is both enjoyable and sincere. Do you think everything, everyone has gone mental/ It seems to me we’re spiraling out of control and it’s inevitable,” Allen sings, then going on to grumble about the pressures to be model. In the magazines they talk about weight loss/ If I buy those jeans I can look like Kate Moss. (AKA twig-like and coked out, no thanks.) It’s a perfect example of Allen’s ability to throw some humor into her songs and still make a valid point.
“Littlest Things” starts out sounding somewhat like Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” until Allen opens her mouth, at which time she evokes somewhat of a Ms. Dynamite vibe, doing a sing-song-y Hip Hop sort of thing. She pulls this off pretty well, until the chorus comes in, and she stops the rhyming and starts in with the singing. This is not to say that she can’t sing, because that she can definitely do, but it just doesn’t work for her on this particular song.
“Shame For You” has got a very Big Band sound going on. “Alfie,” a track about her stoner younger brother and his lack of ambition, is a total crack up. “Ooooo deary me/My little brother’s in his bedroom smoking weed/ I tell him he should get up ‘cos it’s nearly quarter past three/ He can’t be bothered ‘cos he’s high on THC.”
What I like about this album is that it’s clear from first listen that Lily Allen is a fan of many genres. She definitely attempts to represent a lot of her musical influences on Alright Still, showing audiences that she’s a well-rounded listener. It also makes this album a great one to throw on during a party, because she offers a little something for everyone. Before her album deal Allen released mix tapes, but good luck finding one of those (trust me, I’ve been looking).
No word yet on when Alright Still will be available stateside, but in the meantime the single “Smile” EP is available on iTunes and comes with two other songs “Cheryl Tweedy” and “Absolutely Nothing.” Or, you could order the album as an import from Amazon.com for a mere $20, getting it before everyone else and earning the right to say “I told you so” when 6 months from now your friends are just starting to catch wind of her.
Honestly, Lily Allen seems a bit too intelligent for US radio, so if you’re waiting around for your local Top 40 stations to play her, you could be waiting for a while. I say go with the import, try out your best English accent, sip on some cider (or chug a pint), play “Smile” very loudly, and sit back and bask in your coolness for being so ahead of the trend. Feels quite good doesn’t it?