I love Lily Allen…not in the pervy way (I’ve got shoes older than this precociously talented 19-year-old Brit) but because her music makes me smile…and laugh out (the devastatingly frank “Not Big”…including the titular reference to the guy’s manhood… is so deliciously wicked that any guy will be glad that the song is not about him)…and nod knowingly; because she paints vivid portraits of people and places she’s seen (“Nan, You’re a Window Shopper” is a devastating portrait of a woman shuffling through, rather than living, her life), and loves that have gone wrong; because her music enthralls me with its clever, acerbic, occasionally profane lyrics and its infectious, ska/reggae-flavored beats and potent melodies.
This is, not to put too fine a point on it, my favorite CD of the year thus far.
The sunny music will make your toes top and beckon you to the dance floor but it’s the lyrics that pack the biggest punch here. “LDN”, for example, lopes along amiably (after opening with bright calypso horns that accent the rest of the song) even while turning an unblinking eye on pimps and crack whores and mugged old ladies on the streets of London. “Alfie”, a sprightly shuffle, is about a sister trying to kick-start her ne’er do well brother who spends his time sleeping, smoking dope, and playing computer games. The rap-inflected “Knock ‘em Out” is a jolly bit of business about fending off unwanted advances from skanky guys.
Cheeky kiss-offs abound (Allen seems a bit young to have had so many bad experiences in love…but, then again, who’s to say…I had my first heartbreaking crush in the 5th grade and it was real to me) from the insanely catchy “Smile” (about a former boyfriend, who cheated on her with the girl next door, futilely trying to get back with her), the aforementioned “LDN”, and “Friend of Mine”, a loping rebuff of a former love trying to get back in her graces after having badmouthed her in the wake of their breakup.
On the other hand, the sumptuous ballad “Littlest Things” is a bittersweet remembrance of all the small but indelible things that made up a love that was once magical and is now over.
On “Take What You Want”, Allen is at her sassiest when blowing off clichés rained down on her by elders (‘’good things come to those who wait”, “as one door closes, another one opens”) with a defiant declaration of self-empowerment:
Say what you say,
Do what you do
Feel what you feel,
As long as it's real.
I said take what you take
And give what you give
Just be what you want,
Just as long as it's real.
Well, Lily Allen is certainly real…and Alright, Still is a real pop gem.