Tatler magazine called Lily Allen a “secret sloane” a couple of years ago, sloane meaning “preppy” in U.K. culture. On her new LP “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” she can’t really hide it. Her accent has softened, she has moved to a more generic electro-dream-pop, and she sings about money and giving head.
When Lily Allen first hit the pop scene, I loathed her. That’s partly because her “cool lower-class accent” was obviously fake (she is a product of the private school system) and also because the songs were shit. To put it lightly.
Yet there is something pathetically endearing in “INMIY”’s submission to the gods of pop and cashish. Allen has moved away from her cutesy smooth rock/ reggae roots to something which claims no authenticity, stinks of record labels, ensures big buxxx. And she needs them — in “The Fear,” she affirms that she is a “weapon of mass consumption”; well, darling, with this record, your plastic’s going to be carried through the recession just fine and dandy.
All of the songs on the album are eminently playable. You can imagine them being blasted from a cheesy nightclub’s speakers, remixed as lift music, stifling the air in a Baghdad taxi on a dusty 1985 Sony ES S62 stereo. Whereas Allen’s first album, “Alright, Still,” pretended to be “good music” with a certain quirkiness, “INMIY” is so self-consciously bland and banal that listening to it is not a task. It was very very painful to listen to her slop “LDN” across your ears, but that’s just not true on “INMIY.” I can listen to Allen croon “Fuck you very very much” on “F**k You” and not vomit. Why? Drum machine.
The most interesting song on the album is “The Fear,” which has cleverly been selected as the first single. Invoking the dark demons of capitalism, Allen claims “I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless/ Cause everyone knows that’s how you get famous/… It doesn’t matter cause I’m packing plastic/ And that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic.” But the song is also interwoven with some desperate appeal to get out. Allen is a tween who grew up too quickly, took lots of drugs, had tons of sex, made lots of money and is probably really fucked up. Her life means very little — “Now everything’s alright as long as I’m getting thinner.” Either that, or in a cunning market move, her publicist has decided that everyone wants to hear about another plasticcocainesparkleprincess.
But there’s no tragedy. All those £££ and production have created a neutral album, something so flat it’s probably contributing to the flattening of the universe and thermal death. That’s why I think one should buy Allen’s album not for the music, but for the remarkable evidence of late-capitalist descent into greyness. Money corrupts and Allen doesn’t care — she wants to be corrupted (this is the girl who allegedly dealt ecstasy at age 15 on Ibiza). It’s a scary thing to consider — a warped soul, but when you’re listening to “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” you can’t really care, either.