Lily Allen Does What She Wants … and We Love Her for It
Lily Allen caused a buzz late last week when it was revealed that her next album would be called 'Sheezus.' Acknowledging that it was a "confident title choice" and a bit of a nod to Kanye West's album 'Yeezus' LP, which dropped last year, it seems like a somewhat bold move considering the video Allen released for the album's first single, 'Hard Out There,' last November.
Parodying both Miley Cyrus' 'We Can't Stop' and Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' videos, Allen's clip for 'Hard Out There' caused quite a stir in the music and feminist communities. The latter even called out the British singer and songwriter for being both racist and not acting like a very good feminist at all.
So it does make us wonder why she decided to open herself up to criticism again by using a title that's so closely associated with one of the most outspoken artists in music over the past decade. (Not to mention one that's still so fresh on fans' minds.) Is Allen doing this to give the upcoming album a bit of a promotional push? Is she riding the controversy wave to a much-needed comeback? Or is she just trying to get into a Twitter feud with Mr. Yeezus himself, who's never been one to sit back with his mouth shut?
While we can debate the intentions behind the title of the album, this isn't the first time Allen has gone against the conventional grain when it comes to making decisions regarding her career.
From airing out seemingly every opinion that's ever lodged in her brain on Twitter to crafting songs that seem sweet on the surface but reveal their true, bitter intentions upon further listens, Allen has proven time and time again that she can do whatever she wants, and people will still love her.
Despite her vintage fashion style and sorta breezy pop music, Allen has been know to pack a punch when it comes to her sharp songwriting. Before Taylor Swift started complaining about one crappy boyfriend after another and Lorde began spouting her opinions on excessive consumerism in the modern world, Allen tackled similar issues, along with subjects like depression (on 'Smile'), the pressures of being famous ('The Fear') and growing up ('22'). Soaked in sugary pop sounds, all of these songs are easy on the ears.
But that's just the not-so-simple artistry behind what Allen does. She'll toss a catchy hook or light melody at you, and as you bop around to the thrill of it all, her voice will fill your head with subjects you typically don't get with such sunny melodies.
Look no further than 'F--- You.' Unlike CeeLo's same-named song about a scorned love, Allen's kiss-off was inspired by a more political theme. Namely, conservative governments of the 21st century, including the British National Party and George W. Bush's term as U.S. president. And nothing summed up Allen's thoughts on the political climate of 2009 than a big ol' "f--- you," probably with a bird flip to boot.
The track starts off simple, with a lullaby-like melody that quickly dives into lyrics like "So you say / It's not OK to be gay / Well, I think you're just evil / You're just some racist who can't tie my laces / Your point of view is medieval." And that's just the first verse.
'Who'd Have Known,' one of the few ballads on Allen's second album, 2009's 'It's Not Me, It's You,' also cuts to the heart as she explores the uncertainties of a new romance. Considering the very publicized problems she's had in her past relationships, the song worked on two levels: giving fans a peek into her brain as she struggles with new love, but also upping the ante on her steamrolling maturity.
And it wasn't just the song that pushed buttons with fans. The video for 'Who'd Have Known' referenced Allen's old friendship with Elton John. Not so surprisingly, given the parties involved, it all culminated with a very public cat fight at an awards show between the two former pals in 2008.
Allen also takes jabs at crappy relationships in 'Not Fair' (also from her second album), which calls out a sex partner who's finished long before Allen has. With a video that pays tribute to vintage country-music performances, Allen strikes back at old-fashioned ideals and stacks them up against a very modern take on love (or lust, as the case might be here).
"There's just one thing that's getting in the way / 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 / I think you're really mean, I think you're really mean / Oh, you're supposed to care / But you never make me scream, you never make me scream." None of the '70s' feminist singers ever got this close to the truth, not even Loretta Lynn.
Naturally, Allen has been as outspoken in her personal life as she's been on record. In addition to her tiffs with John and even West before this whole 'Sheezus' thing took hold, she's most recently engaged in an ongoing feud with rapper Azealia Banks.
According to reports, Banks called Allen's kids "ugly" and referred to her husband as a "thumb." Allen responded by labeling Banks a one-hit wonder. The argument is just now heating up, with Allen firing a shot at Banks' recent trouble in securing a record deal.
Whether or not you agree with her views or even like her, Allen is back. And by staking claim with that headline-making album title, she wants wants you to listen and pay attention to what she has to say. And we still have a few weeks until 'Sheezus' comes out. She's already made a splash in 2014 by doing nothing but being her unashamed, outspoken self. Just wait till she gets started.