, and he may have unknowingly had a point. While Lily
she spent her childhood on set with her father, Keith knew that his daughter’s rise would come with a catch. “It’s hard out here for a bitch,” she sings, after all, at the end of her solid third album
“Hard Out Here” rewrites Three 6 Mafia‘s Hustle & Flow anthem into an almost-breezy critique of music industry sexism, but its video has become a flashpoint for debate of race relations, much to Allen’s frustration. (Scenes of twerking black asses were the ones in focus, despite another moment where a white male manager shows Allen how to deep-throat a banana.)
Lily doesn’t shut up in At the time, while aligning herself with the surging British hip-hop movement ( Sheezus, though she sounds fatigued by fame. Now married with two children, the British singer comes across worlds removed from her 2006 debut Alright, Still and its shiny, streetwise pop filtered through a messy, mouthy socialite. M.I.A., Lady Sovereign), the “Smile” singer’s choices in beats and Jamaican samples often made every drug-fueled lyric as endearing as her uniform of prom dress and sneakers. If a song was done right, as it usually was, it felt like a sly wink. And when it wasn’t, it registered like the ensuing tabloid coverage.
Sheezus is best when Allen invites listeners inside her home. She’s as charming as ever, though now it’s because she sounds sheepish over her quieter lifestyle. “I’ll be Beyoncé, baby say my name,” she coos in ’80s-inspired slow jam “Close Your Eyes,” a proposition she quickly chases with a corny come-hither (“Driving your sedan up to my mini-van”) and vocoder-laced pillow talk.
Allen may sound slightly out of touch compared to her favorite current hitmakers like
and Miley Cyrus Vampire Weekend, though she pulls off a reasonable facsimile — “Our Time” is her “We Can’t Stop” — because she seems to accept her fall from the avant-garde with grace. In the sun-dappled Afropop highlight “Life for Me,” she cops to a shockingly mundane habit of wistful online voyeurism, for glimpses into everyone else’s partying.
When Allen actually addresses the real world,
Sheezus briefly loses its charm. Her most searing critiques in 2009’s It’s Not Me, It’s You were either schoolyard chants ( “Fuck You,” to George W. Bush) or lullabies ( “Him,” as in God), while Sheezus shows how words like “inequality” and “injustice” rarely work within the confines of a pop melody. “URL Badman” veers from Drake to dubstep to depict the hyperbolic reactions of music bloggers. “Insincerely Yours” parodies Puff Daddy‘s bling-era anthems while targeting the touched-up, Mail Online approach to celebrity journalism.
Allen’s proclaimed intentions are high-minded as ever in Sheezus, but for once it’s a clumsy kind of noblesse. That’s not to say that she should stop speaking her mind. The title track, produced by DJ Dahi (Drake’s “Worst Behavior”), makes for her most ruthless critique yet — not of the pop divas she lists, but of the media outlets that rush to cover them. With a Cheshire grin, Allen imagines their hunger for salacious gossip as she name-checks her supposed rivals (“We’re all watching Gaga, LOL, like haha / dying for her art, so really she’s a martyr”) at the satisfying hook. This depiction would turn out to be spot-on, as headlines accused her of throwing shade, if not going for blood.
Here’s to hoping that Allen doesn’t wait another five years to speak up again.
Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: Allen was right – “Sheezus” deserves to be a single, and it should have been the first.
Full Disclosure: Yes, Idolator is mentioned in “URL Badman.” No, we don’t take it personally. She has a point.
Idolator Score: 3.5/5
— Christina Lee Do you call Sheezus a comeback ? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on
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