It’s Not Me, It’s Not You…It’s LILY ALLEN.
A review of Lily Allen’s “It’s Not Me, It’s You”.
Lily Allen shouldn’t work. No, I don’t think that Lily should be out of a job…it’s just that Lily Allen Music, the concept, shouldn’t be as successful as it is. Brutally introspective, unwaveringly narcissistic, work so emotionally distraught that the idea of pouring “blood, sweat and tears” into her music doesn’t seem like a hyperbole. How can music so unapologetically single-minded appeal to so many listeners?
Read worthington’s review after the jump.
Maybe it’s because Lily understands that misery loves company. Her first album, the staggeringly popular Alright, Still paired her versions of Morrissey-mopiness and hate-laced lyrical bombs with frolicking pop numbers courtesy of daft, jazzy retro-ska from Mark Ronson. Her attacks on wanker boyfriends, celeb life, inadequate boytoys, body image, and oh, and did we mention unworthy men? were so blissfully mixed with sunny, head-bopping tunes that at times you couldn’t quite tell how far her tongue was buried in her own cheek.
I’ve made no qualms about the fact that Alright, Still was (and still is) one of my favorite albums EVER, so it was with some trepidation when I first sat down to listen to the ridiculously long-awaited It’s Not Me, It’s You. Was she a one trick pony? With a recent miscarriage, broken engagement, fluctuating body image issues, and a general withdrawal from public life, what could I possibly expect from my dear, dear Lily? Would she still be as fun as I remembered her?
It’s like being at a coffee shop, reminiscing about the most amazing one night stand of your life, when all of a sudden the other end of that one night stand walks into the shop and sits down next to you, telling you that’s she’s moved back to the States for work and is here to stay. You can blow her off, never see her again, just immortalize the events of that one night so that you don’t set yourself up for disappointment when it devolves into just another humdrum relationship. Or you can take a chance.
As it turns out, Lily brought her guns to town, she didn’t leave them at home (bonus points for IDing this). It’s Not Me, It’s You, by and large, brings us more of the same Lily Allen we know and love. Yes, there are more songs about boys. There are more songs about the pressure of being a celebrity. But whereas Lily merely dipped her trainers in these waters on Alright, Still, now she ditches the vintage prom dresses and hoop earrings and dives head in on …It’s You.
The result is a more naked Lily, one more willing to bare herself, more willing to re-visit and not just remember forgotten pains. L.A.-based producer Greg Kurstin, of The Bird and The Bee fame, provides the perfect sonic framing for this newer, somewhat darker Lily. He eschews Ronson’s multi-layered sampling attack and instead opts for a more stripped-down sound, a sparser feel that meshes well with Lily’s more morose crooning.
This more world-weary Lily speaks of “The Fear”, and confusedly struggles to reconcile the notion of the supposedly ideal life of fame with the sense of unfulfillment that hangs on its underbelly (”I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore / And I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore”). The twenty-something then fast-forwards to a failed, broken, Twilight Zone version of herself on “22″, a future that she sees as coming sooner rather than later (”When she was 22 the future looked bright / But she’s nearly 30 now and out every night / …She’s thinking how did I get here and wondering why”). And in a positively Jenny Lewis-like moment, she even shakes her fist at whatever omnipotent deity is passively watching the spoiling of our world on “Him”.
That isn’t to say that the album has ditched the notion of fun altogether. The juxtaposition of sob stories and free-flying curses with bouncy pop cues from songs you swear you’ve heard before is trademark Lily, and she doesn’t disappoint on that end either. Take, for instance, the spaghetti-western guitar chug and organ flourishes on “Not Fair”, an ode to the perfectly perfect man who is, unfortunately for Lily, far from perfect in the sack. Or “Fuck You”’s vaguely Sesame Streetish jaunt, coupled with a catchy hook designed to shamelessly incorporate the F-bomb as often as possible. Listening to it feels like going to Central Park to have an ice cream cone and smell the flowers. Except instead of smelling the flowers, you pee on them.
It turns out, the new Lily Allen isn’t really all that new. It’s the same old Lily, but just more of her, more about her. It’s Not Me, It’s You ironically finds Lily placing a lot more blame on herself for the blemishes and imperfections of her life. But she wags a finger (and a tongue) at me, and you, and the media, and God, and everyone else that’s helping destroy this world. The album deliciously seeks to evoke meaning and feeling in an increasingly nihilistic world. She seems to lament the prospect of a world so desensitized that drudging up ANY emotion, even negative ones, from us is better than having us feel nothing at all.
So she bares her soul so that we can sympathize, mocks us so we can hate, pokes fun at us so we can love. We forgot what it was like when music made us think and feel. So Lily went and did something about it. She showed us the problems with fame and money and love and hurt. The concept of her music, Lily herself, the success she enjoyed was never the problem. We enjoyed her music because we wanted to, we made her famous because that’s what we thought she wanted and it’s what we wanted for her. The problem was never Lily. It’s not her…it’s us.
EDIT: Just for funskies, I’m including pictures of the “new”, thinner Lily. I stole one of these pics from Tyler Durden, but I’ve loved Lily for FAR LONGER than he has, so I’m just gonna borrow it and pretend that they said it’s ok.