British pop singer Lily Allen regularly featured as the topic of conversation at my Catholic all-girls school. No surprises there. She embedded her soft, sweet English accent into nearly every 15-year-old’s brain circa 2009. A Lily vs. Katy Perry feud even erupted. We spent nearly a week donning Lily or Katy badges to support our side. No word of a lie. And here we are, nine years on with Lily’s latest single “Lost My Mind”.
There was a void in pop music until Allen’s radio anthems like “The Fear” and “22” bellowed out of car speakers and iPod Nanos. They blew teens’ minds for being unapologetic and fearless; it was a style of song-writing that resonated with a lot of angst-ridden teens because the songs held relatable messages of uncertainty and self-doubt.
Allen was adored for channelling her inner rebel. A high school drop out with a penchant for pairing her prom dresses with sneakers, she was a savvy role model for many girls in a post-Spice Girls world. Waving the flag for a revolution in self-esteem and body image, Allen was a welcome resistance to the slew of seemingly flawless women in the media.
It was a pivotal moment in my life when I, a sheltered Catholic school girl, learnt that the country western inspired mega-hit “Not Fair” (2009) was about a nice, loyal, committed boyfriend who was bad at sex. It blew everything I thought I knew about relationships and sex out of the water. It was those kinds of poppy tunes with smooth melodies that were de-constructed by girls in the locker rooms, lyric by lyric; ” If you listen carefully, it’s about her brother smoking marijuana” (collective gasps), in reference to Allen’s 2006 single “Alfie”. Allen’s rise to stardom taught me and my peers that a girls voice can be heard and it didn’t have to be yelled – just merely sung above a whisper.
Almost a decade on, Allen’s new single, “Lost My Mind,” is re-opening the gateway for a new generation of young girls (and boys) eager to be initiated into pop’s rebellious clique. The single is an authentic outpouring of thoughts and feelings, which ring true even within the framework of catchy lyrics. The story is familiar enough: a predictable romantic crush is followed by the inevitable consequences. But if the lyrics are all-too recognisable, the sound displays a more grown-up Allen. Demure vocals are sung in a stunningly gentle range, with a vibrant, bubble-gum-pop touch of auto-tune, reminding us of the innocence of love. This is Allen up-close and personal, a confessional of sorts, and can be no better indicator of the singer’s ability to stay relevant to young fans.
Her fourth studio album “No Shame” is already receiving rave reviews, with NME describing it as, “A smart, self-aware and compellingly imperfect record with a pretty unique point of view.”
The new album features collaborations with the likes of Fryars, Mark Ronson, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Burna Boy, P2J and Cass Lowe to bring together an album that is a personal outlet of emotion for Allen.
Speaking about the sense of catharsis that came with making the album, Allen says:
“I believe that we as humans work through things by talking about them, and that’s what making music is, for me. It’s sharing things that you hope are going to connect with people, not that are going to connect with algorithms. I think we are so led by outside forces in terms of the way we express ourselves nowadays, because we’re so scared of what comes back. It’s something I’ve always wanted to explore. It’s why I went into it at the beginning, when it felt a lot more free.”