In 2010, British pop singer Lily Allen stepped away from music not long after releasing her sophomore album “It’s Not Me It’s You.” Allen had been a critical favorite since she first started posting songs she had written on MySpace. Her unique blend of sarcasm and a lovely soprano voice made her a global success. Songs like “The Fear,” “Not Fair” and, of course, “Smile” dominated worldwide pop charts. Allen was able to make music that was clever and socially observant while also being catchy and danceable.
During her five-year absence from the spotlight, Allen has married and had two children. She has still been busy in music, being featured on P!nk’s song “True Love” and also having the first verse of her song “Who’d Have Known” be sampled as the hook of T-Pain’s “5 O’Clock.” Now, we have her third album, “Sheezus.” The title is a not-so-subtle reference to Kanye West’s recent album “Yeezus.” The music industry has changed dramatically in the past five years as Allen states in the title track: “Can’t get back up, jump on the mic and do the same thing.”
Allen has been one of the best pop singers today, making smart social commentary without sounding too preachy. “Sheezus” is the latest example of this with songs like “URL Badman,” “Hard Out Here,” “Sheezus” and “Silver Spoon,” all of which show that Allen still loves to observe today’s pop culture. It is their substance and catchy hooks that make them the highlights of the album, especially the song “Hard Out Here,” a feminist battle cry about the way women are treated in modern media. Lines like, “If you’re not a size 6 and you’re not good looking, well you better be rich or be real good at cooking” and “We’ve never had it so good, uh-huh, we’re out of the woods, and if you can’t detect the sarcasm you’ve misunderstood” are as blunt as they are honest. The song “Sheezus” is also just as observant. Allen mocks how members of the media pit female pop stars against each other: “I don’t like being compared to other people because I’m quite aware that there are people who are far more talented and have better singing voices than me.” She doesn’t want to be put up against someone simply because she is a woman. “Nobody is going to write, ‘Lily Allen vs. Ed Sheeran’. It just doesn’t happen.”
On some of the songs on this album, Allen departs from her usual songwriting to make some simple, catchy tunes as well. The delightful nonsense lyrics of “Air Balloon” are charming and easy to dance to. Allen also just loves talking about her love for her husband in songs like “Close Your Eyes.”
“Sheezus” is much like “Yeezus” in its use of trap and dubstep elements. Songs like “URL Badman” are filled with insane techno beats. “Life for Me” is a definite favorite on this album because of it’s lovely, laid-back sound.
However, not everything here is great. “Sheezus” does have some flaws that are worth discussing. “Insincerely Yours” seems to be just that, insincere. So much so that Allen’s usually funny social commentary seems a bit shallow and mean. The digs at fellow celebrities seem more catty than humorous. Allen has said that the song is tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken seriously, however, I wouldn’t have had that opinion of the song without having read that.
The album definitely grows on you and can take two or three listens to really get into it, especially if you are not used to Allen’s sound. But all in all, “Sheezus” is a meaningful pop album that has enough meat on the bone to make it last a while.
Brian Tank is a freshman at Nichols School.