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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Jun-18 > LILY ALLEN NO SHAME

LILY ALLEN NO SHAME

”I DON’T LIKE MOST PEOPLE/ BUT I’M SCARED, NOT EVIL.” LILY ALLEN OPENS HER HEART ON AN OUTSTANDING, VIBRANT COLLECTION OF WITTY AND TENDER CONFESSIONS

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Poignancy isn’t readily associated with Lily Allen, yet here she is on Three – one of her desperately touching fourth album’s numerous eloquent songs – exercising empathy, vulnerability, playfulness and sensitivity by pretending to be three years old. “This afternoon,” she sings, “I made a papier-mâché fish, Mum,” and hearts melt, Allen’s voice unbearably pretty and foolishly underappreciated, her unadorned piano and bass accompaniment perfectly matching the innocent pleasures described.

But Three isn’t a saccharine celebration of motherhood.

Brutally acknowledging maternal failings with a similarly uncomplicated observation, Allen gifts the child a killer line: “You can’t play with us/ ‘cos you’re always off on tour”.

As if this jarring emotional wrench weren’t enough, Allen then encapsulates, with one magical image, another element of the parent child relationship: purity. “When things feel black and white,” she trills, “We’ll do some colouring in.” If there’s a dry eye in the house, that house isn’t worth visiting.

Nonetheless, Three precedes the deceptively soothing yet emotionally spent Everything To Feel Something, on which Allen numbly declares: “I’m gonna let you fuck me/ I know I’m being used”. Therein lies No Shame’s contradictory appeal: the result of a reflective journey – precipitated by a wild youth, personal tragedies, and, more recently, a failed marriage – it’s the sound of someone beating themselves up, sharing pain and epiphanies, and thus inspiring us all to improve. Self-obsessed yet selfless, courageous yet humble, it’s truly, honestly exceptional.

Of course, it doesn’t always take itself seriously. Come On Then – combining authentic melancholy with synthetic Pet Shop Boys shimmers – defiantly confronts media gossip: “If you go on record/ Saying that you know me/ Then why am I so lonely/ Because nobody fucking phones me.”

The cutely naïve My One begins “Baby, I’ve fucked half the boys in Paris…” while Pushing Up Daisies finds romance in old age, Allen begging her lover to stay till “we’re just a strain on the NHS”.

Flippancy never overshadows self-awareness, however, with heart-breaking flaws exposed in Family Man’s soulful AOR, and forgiveness sought amid What You Waiting For’s dancehall stylings. Getting here’s hurt a lot, but Allen’s compassion transforms sophisticated pop into a genuine, unabashed force for good.

Wyndham Wallace

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