Lily Allen - Sheezus Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 05.06.2014
Lily Allen returns to music after a five year hiatus with her third album, Sheezus! But does her creativity end with the Kanye-parodying title or does Allen still have something to say? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
1. "Sheezus" (3:54)
2. "L8 CMMR" (3:24)
3. "Air Balloon" (3:48)
4. "Our Time" (4:19)
5. "Insincerely Yours" (3:39)
6. "Take My Place" (3:31)
7. "As Long as I Got You" (3:23)
8. "Close Your Eyes" (3:36)
9. "URL Badman" (3:39)
10. "Silver Spoon" (3:37)
11. "Life for Me" (4:00)
12. "Hard Out Here" (3:31)
13. "Interlude" (1:38)
14. "Somewhere Only We Know" (3:28)
Lily Allen hasn't been in the public eye for a few years. The UK-based pop singer suggested that she was retiring from the music industry after her second album, 2009's critically and commercially successful It's Not Me, It's You, and gave what was her last performance at the time in 2010 before she slipped away. Since that time she hasn't been idle by any stretch; she's had two children with her husband and started her own record imprint under Sony Music. She's also been involved with the songs for the stage version of Bridget Jones' Diary and popped up here and there from time to time. But as a singer she's been largely silent until late last year when her cover of "Somewhere Only We Know" and her first new original song in four years, "Hard Out Here," were released. The latter track has led into the promotional campaign and reveal for Sheezus, Allen's provocatively-named third album and her feet-first leap back into the world of pop music.
Of course, anyone who has even the slightest inkling of popular music knows full well that Allen drew inspiration for her album title from Kanye West's Yeezus, which was released last year. Yeezus was a polarizing album that took bold steps in terms of production but was on somewhat more shaky ground lyrically. Allen's album is ironically the opposite side of that coin. Her lyrics are often razor sharp but musically it is a bit all over the place. This doesn't mean that it sounds bad; there are some really inspired moments on the album and that kicks off with the title track. Over a digitally-sampled "Ha, ha, ha, ha" that suggests Allen is giving us a little wink, electro-pop elements shine and let Allen deliver some smart lyrics that name drop some of pop's biggest divas and extols a full verse about menstrual cycles. The song isn't trying to denigrate those artists though; when she sings, "Iím ready for all the comparisons/I think itís dumb and itís embarrassing" it becomes clear that the song takes swagger of hip-hop as a framework for pointing out how the media sets female pop stars in a state where they're in competition for top dog. Don't believe her? Look at the way the media covered Katy Perry and Lady Gaga's albums opening in similar time frames last year, and Allen's sharpened point becomes crystal clear.
Media is a big target for Allen on Sheezus and its where she's at her sharpest, whether it's "Silver Spoon's" sarcastic jabs at people who criticize her for having a privileged upbringing or "Hard Our Here" giving some unsubtle yet effective commentary on the way women are brainwashed to seeking objectification. These are the points on the album that are strongest; she has a wicked sense of humor and a solid sense of lyricism, both of which we've seen before and when she points those at a subject that she feels passionately about the results are quite good. The best of these songs is "URL Badman," an answer to the internet trolls of the world." Sung from the perspective of a "London white boy repping ATL," Allen starts off with the obvious stereotype of living in your parents' basement but shoots directly up from there into biting satire. "Sizzurp in a chalice" is a fantastic image that tells you everything that you need to know, but she goes on. It's funny and distinctly relevant in the current age over a trap-pop sound that fits perfectly and throws in some digitized sheep bleats just because she can for maximum effect.
While the other tracks on the album may not have the pointed bite, many of them have their charms. "L8 CMMR's" only real flaw is its silly textspeak title; the song is an upbeat electro-bouncy number that recalls her trademark cheekiness in how it describes her husband's ability to sustain himself in the bedroom while "Take My Place" is a sorrowful ballad about her miscarriage that works and "Insincerely Yours" has a 1970s vibe in the vein of Daft Punk as it talks about fake DJs and points out that she's here to "make money." "Life For Me" conjures up the feel of a Paul Simon song in a song about domestic life. The lyrics are all just fine, but Greg Kurstin's production seems like it can't settle down on one cohesive vision. None of this is bad, and it all works for the most part; it simply robs these cuts of their urgency a bit.
In truth, there are only two truly substandard tracks. The first one, sandwiched in the middle of the LP, is the slow jam "Close Your Eyes." It sounds like it's trying too hard to be a sexy jam and the lyrics get a little desperate; "ride me like a bike" is unworthy of Allen's pen. The second track is the bonus one, a cover of Keane's ballad "Somewhere Only We Know." Even Allen knows that this is a substandard song; she's publicly stated that she wasn't a big fan of the song being included and that's perhaps why it's shuffled off to the end of the album. It closes out the album on a saccharine note that betrays most of the album, but luckily you can turn it off before then and be fine without missing anything else.
Standout Tracks: "Sheezus," "URL Badman," "Silver Spoon," "Hard Out Here"
Skippable: "Close Your Eyes," "Somewhere Only We Know"
The 411: Lily Allen's return to music in Sheezus is exactly what you would expect and will have plenty for her supporters and detractors to point at. At its heart it is a mostly-strong affair that shows Allen's lyrical strengths, even if the production could have found a somewhat more cohesive groove. It won't be dominating the singles charts any time soon--the best songs are not built for airplay--but she she proves that she's an important part of pop music still by having things to say without needing to dumb it down for radio success.