On the title track of Lily Allen’s “Sheezus,” she literally comes out fighting– lacing up her gloves and dropping rhymes on Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Lorde.
Allen, who dropped out of music to have kids and open a shop, is back and badder than ever. The British diva’s third album was released yesterday and has already generated plenty of buzz.
With her first big hit, “Smile,” from her 2006 debut “Alright, Still,” Allen was cheeky and refreshing. By now, Allen’s had enough celebrity rows to keep her in the pressers for the next three months, and that’s a pretty long time. The video for the single “Hard Out Here,” caused controversy for allegations of being racist for using black back-up dancers. She responded mightily on Twitlonger. The newest spat she’s wrapped up in is with model Jourdan Dunn.
But Allen knows putting your name in online gossip mags will only take you so far.
On “Sheezus,” Allen pushes herself beyond her limits, sometimes using samples of hip-hop and rap classics. Many times she falls over the edge, but pushing those boundaries is sometimes the only way to learn.
“Insincerely Yours” is plucked from pure disco gold, like a reborn Gwen Stefani glowing in riches, a sexpot who swears and then sips her tea. There’s a lot that Allen is saying underneath the covers of Sheezus, and a lot she is attempting to say.
There’s a whole mess of gender-bender male posturing too. “I don’t like girls much, they’re kind of silly, unless of course they wanna play with my willy,” she sings on “URL Badman”. Raising eyebrows suits her fine.
Allen’s raw honesty is a blast to hear. About bad DJs and wannabes “On Insincerely Yours,” she deadpans, “She’s looking good with her headphones on/With her Beats by Dre/She’s so legit.”
“Close Your Eyes,” is laughably dirty. The line “Come on, ride me like a bike,” sells the song. But the overproduction is still running the show, not Allen. The quieter “Take My Place” is memorable for merging her pop sensibilities while adding a touch of soft-rock.
The country-soaked “As Long As I Got You” has a square-dance twang, while “Somewhere Only We Know” only brings us back down to Disney World. Allen is still tightly wrapped within the cocoon of motherhood, whether she likes it or not.
“URL Badman” may be the only shout-out to music blogging with a rap sequence fit to challenge. It’s bookended by the more badass “Silver Spoon,” as she brags she’s going to heaven in a Range Rover. She falls back into her comfort zone with the ska-flavored “Life For Me,” but it is the rare instance on Sheezus where she’s the most sincere.
While she sounds more sure of herself as a glamour-pop icon, it’s unclear at this time if she is deserving of it. The blatant covers of hip-hop classics (referencing House of Pain on “L8 CMMR”, and never mind the Kanye West ripoff in the title) either shows her cred is only surface-deep, or she just wants to reach a larger audience.
The gangsta flavor she proudly waves on most of “Sheezus” could easily be misconstrued as spitting in the face of rap artists who own that credibility. Still, Allen gets it, more often than not.
There’s clearly some unevenness, but her scathing lyrics and the prickly heat she generates justify giving “Sheezus” a ride.
Allen tweeted on May 1: “I’m sick of explaining my lyrics to people, they’re pop songs, no more, no less. If you don’t get it or like it, look the other way.”
Don’t believe it. Lily Allen knows exactly what she is doing.
Sheezus was released on Warner Brothers/Parlophone on May 6.
Watch the “Sheezus” video here.