Lily Allen returns with a campy new video for "Hard Out Here".
Contrary, contradictory, occasionally catty, always compelling, Allen, at 23, is Britains most consistently engaged and engaging pop star, as well as one of our most successful.
She first commandeered the public stage in July 2006, a fully formed phenomenon with a song that would help define that summer, the hugely infectious Smile, her first CD single and her first UK number one. Smile served as an excellent primer for the Allen oeuvre, a breezy, lilting, ska-inflected slice of perfect pop distinguished by sugar-sweet vocals and unflinchingly autobiographical lyrics. It was a song of female empowerment sung by a smart-mouthed, wide-eyed, pretty post-teen in a pink prom dress and box-fresh Nike trainers, fluoro make-up and huge hoop earrings.
LDN was, if anything, even more insidious and distinctive: a faux-nave, text-spelt, profane paean to the city of her birth in all its grimy glory.
By the time of the release of Alright, Still, her debut album, Allens stardom was solidified and her public persona cemented: cheeky, waspish, searingly honest, sparky, spiky and satirical. Some of the stories about her were even true.
Lily Allen was born in May 1985 in Hammersmith, west London, the daughter of film producer Alison Owen and actor Keith Allen. It was an unconventional childhood, but not one without its compensations, and it made Allen wise beyond her years and tremendously motivated to carve her own place in the world. Raised alongside her sister and brother in Bloomsbury, Shepherds Bush, Primrose Hill and Islington, she attended 13 different schools in total before abandoning her formal education at 15 and embarking on a teenage odyssey of innocence and experience: clubbing in Ibiza, studying to be a florist, always hoping to break into the entertainment industry.
She knocked on record company doors from the age of 16, and her first deal came in 2002, with Warners, who pushed her in an uncomfortably folky direction. It was two years later, working with producers Future Cut, when Allen began to find her feet as a songwriter. In 2005 she signed to Regal, an imprint of Parlophone, and, frustrated by the slow pace of the music industry, began to post demos on her MySpace page. Meanwhile, a series of live appearances at the Notting Hill nightclub Yo-Yo in the spring of 2006 whetted press and public appetites.
Meanwhile, Allen provided guest vocals on songs by Robbie Williams, Dizzee Rascal and Basement Jaxx, among others, and made a specialty of unexpected cover versions. As well as her hit interpretation of the Kaiser Chiefs Oh My God alongside Ronson, she has covered The Kooks, The Pretenders and Blondie, and offered a sardonic reworking of 50 Cents Window Shopper.
Those people will be interested to learn that Its Not Me, Its You might be the only album theyll hear in 2009 that references racism (Fuck You); ageism (22); the dark side of celebrity and consumer culture (The Fear); drug dependency (Everyones At It); and 9/11 (Him); but also TV dinners (Chinese); premature ejaculation (Not Fair); the enduring rubbishness of men (Never Gonna Happen), as well as the fragile beauty of early romance (Whod Have Known).
Its Not Me, Its You is unmistakably Her: bracing home truths and pungent social commentary delivered in the voice of an angel. Its a potent combination. It could only be Lily Allen.