A friend of mine referred to Lily Allen’s music, not as music, but as “comments.” Makes sense. Over the course of three records Allen has laid out a few solid miles of comments—taking jabs, delivering satire, begging for attention—sort of like a lot of modern music critics.
On Sheezus—her third full-length, and first in five years—Allen continues her cheeky ruminations over good-timing dance pop (and occasional pap). She wastes no time with the title track. “Second best will never cut it for the divas / Gimme that crown, bitch, I wanna be Sheezus,” Allen sings after name-dropping Katy Perry, Lorde, Rihanna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga (and that’s just the chorus). Of course, those women have continued to fill the silence in Allen’s absence, which she alludes to with a little bit of uncertainty.
Being away five years to raise a family probably didn’t help in keeping Allen’s barbs sharp. It’s always been a challenge knowing when Allen is being sincere or yanking our chains, or whether she’s owning it or overcompensating for something—maybe a little more so on Sheezus. It’s still fun, and Allen is still irreverent on songs like “Silver Spoon” and “URL Badman” (which calls out Internet trolls), but there’s a little less bite, a little less punk ’tude than on her first two records. This time around she works elements of family life into songs like “L8 CMMR,” an ode to her hubby that’s sincere without being sappy (or is it?).
There might be more substance musically than lyrically on Sheezus. But even the album’s flashy pop is missing some of the bells and whistles of her previous work. This may not be Allen’s strongest outing, but even when Lily Allen isn’t at her best she’s still pretty good. I would say she probably doesn’t give a shit, but Sheezus tells us otherwise. The past decade tells us, however, that she’s too provocative a character and too strong a personality not to get her mojo back.