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Review

Lily Allen thrusts herself back into the spotlight

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February 12, 2009

Last fall, world renowned singer, drug addict and raging alcoholic Lily Allen swore off booze. This was not due to the many health risks that go along with it, but because, in her own words, “I got fucking sick of people saying I was drunk all the time.” She would resume drinking a month later.

Reading the above quote helps illuminate the way the precocious, 23-year-old Brit thinks about her media image. There’s certainly no shortage of colorful life experiences for her to draw on, including attempted suicide, a miscarriage and an embarrassing topless exhibit at the Cannes Film Festival—one of the many incidents that has provided endless fuel for her paparazzi tormentors.

The most regretful aspect of Allen’s career is not her public meltdowns and drunken outbursts themselves, but the fact that she has allowed them to overshadow her wonderful musical contributions—a unique, eclectic cocktail of easy-flowing pop ingenuity.

Allen’s new release, “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” is a tremendous, audacious and uncompromising follow up to her multi-platinum debut album that transformed her from MySpace queen to a Grammy-nominated superstar in 2006.

“It’s Not Me” replaces the saccharine smiles of her first effort with real world problems as well as the tumultuous ups and downs straight out of Allen’s own life.  The shiny opening track, “Everyone’s At It,” directly tackles the painful realm of drug addiction that can affect everyone “from grown politicians to young adolescents / prescribing themselves anti-depressants.”

She addresses feelings of disconnect with both her parents on “Chinese,” baring all of her lonely feelings in the form of a young girl reaching out for the comfort of home.  “I don’t want anything more / Than to see your face when you open the door,” she confesses with a slight hint of discomfort in her voice.

There is even a room for a thinly veiled (not really) ad hominem attack of George W. Bush, creatively titled “Fuck You,” which seems to come about four years too late, and easily shapes up as the most uninteresting spot of the 12-track album. Still, she digs deep to release a venomous attack on the ex-president (“You’re just some racist who can’t tie my laces”) with a special disdain I thought was reserved for her talentless American counterpart and rival, Katy Perry.

Most of the record is coated with a subdued, bouncy electropop background, which is paired in a tenderly ironic fashion with the serious nature of Allen’s words. “It’s Not Me” is saturated with wry insults, social criticisms and apologies that manage to be both haunting and brutally direct. Although Allen has written that she sees herself as “fat, ugly and shitty,” the time she spent in the recording studio has resulted in something deeply personal and refreshingly genuine that mirrors the artist herself-self-made and beautiful in its imperfections.

Andrew Phelps is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.