After nearly four years, Lily Allen has finally begun to make headlines for all the right reasons again. Next week will see the release of the original MySpace Starlet’s sophomore attempt, It’s Not Me, It’s You, featuring the thoughts and fears of a 22-year-old poised at the precipice of adulthood. Not a girl, not yet a woman, as a wise woman may have once said years ago.
Accordingly, the new record is rife with turmoil stemming from all avenues of discontent: Political, personal, and all the glorious goods in between. This time around however, the bratty persona from years past has been replaced by a more dedicated musician, a sentiment often reiterated by Allen herself in recent interviews.
With “Everyone’s At It” and “The Fear,” the albums lead-off tracks, Allen sets the bar high from the beginning. Together, the two brooding electro-pop social critiques bounce off each other in a deliciously dark manner, an atmosphere carried forth for the remainder of the album.
“Back To The Start” is a particular highlight of the album. Hovering atop a brittle, breaking chorus, Allen teeters across a slippery string of apologies: “Believe me when I say that I cannot apologize enough…And if it’s not too late, can you please find it deep within your heart, to try and go back, go back to the start?” As soon as the echoing, choral bridges between the chorus chimes in, it’s already over: The track is a certified stormer.
“Who’d Of Known” is a particularly tender, if not surprising moment, as we find Allen at the brink of something beautiful: “Even though it’s moving forward, there’s just the right amount of awkward / Today you accidentally called me baby,” she coos with a wisp of girlish excitement.
“Chinese” appropriately follows, as Allen opens up once more: “Tomorrow we’ll take the dog for the walk in the afternoon, and maybe we’ll talk. I’ll be exhausted, so I’ll probably sleep. Then we’ll get Chinese, and watch TV.” Frank, yet charming nonetheless.
“Him” will likely garner the greatest flack from the buttoned-ups, playing like a modern rendition of the classic Joan Osborne track, “One Of Us.” Re-imagining God in more human terms, Allen twirls around through a dizzying, down-tempo electronica set: “I don’t imagine he’s ever been suicidal / His favorite band is Creedance Clearwater Revival.”
Much to my surprise, It’s Not Me is not only a stronger set than Alright, Still, but a fluid one as well. The melodies and music meld into one another quite effortlessly throughout this album, creating a more satisfying, cohesive follow-up to her debut.
In place of the feel-good, reggae reminiscent stylings of her former effort is a kind of Western twang, tied along by a string of repeated electronica strands throughout. And unlike that of, say, Lady Gaga‘s album, the recurring electronica samples found throughout the album feel like welcome re-introductions rather than cheaply recycled beats.
From time to time, Lily Allen still sweeps her feet into the depths of silly, found everywhere from the sweetly naughty chastising of a poor performing lover in “Not Fair” to the whirling, carousel kiss-off known as “Never Gonna Happen.” More often however, we find the self-created starlet soaring into new reaches of gorgeous, layered vocals with the aid of well-crafted, minimalist lyricism. The craft, no doubt influenced by the masters before her known as the Pet Shop Boys, proves ultimately charming in the end.
My only point of contention is that, barring the massive “Back To The Start,” the album’s most memorable tracks remain the ones leaked by the artist herself earlier last year. Not that the other tracks are poor by any means, but there’s still no topping the sensational construction of tracks such as “I Could Say” or “The Fear.”
Then again, times were shakier then with the collapse of EMI, and I’m willing to bet even Allen was unsure if the record would ever see the light of day.
Thankfully, it will.