This album has been one I have been waiting for for a long time, so it made sense to post my opinions of it – before I set off, though, I think it’s fair to say that this is exactly what I’d expect from the album, and in many ways it was far from it.
There’s been an obvious change in her music, which I think is excellent – it shows her progression. After being away for so long, and having had two kids while she was at it, she’s matured a lot and her sound is a definite step forwards. The album opens with title track, Sheezus, which she claims is the only track she wrote with a purpose (as she stated in an interview with Greg James). It speaks of the female competition in the music industry and what she thinks of the big names out there (Katy Perry, Beyonce, Gaga and such), which kicks off the record with her upfront, say-it-how-it-is attitude. L8 CMMR, the second track, brings in another element that we’d seen in her previous albums – her honest take on her love life. On her previous record (It’s Not Me, It’s You), there was a definite feeling of doubt and longing for security, whereas this track almost feels like she’s proud (if not bragging) about the certainty in her marriage.
The third and fourth tracks (Air Balloon and Our Time) were the two leading singles off the album – effectively, the ones about partying. Air Balloon features the crisp vocals and upbeat melody that reach right back to LDN, whereas Our Time contrasts this with a zoned-out sound, much like that in The Fear. There’s nothing similar in any of the tracks of the album, and yet they all feature the same impressive vocal range and personal-yet-speaking-for-everyone lyricism, which is really highlighted in the contrasts between these two singles.
Switching back to the album tracks, Insincerely Yours speaks of the money-powered music industry, before Take My Place adds another personal note to the album. At first listen it sounds like a whiny love song, but when you learn it’s about her losing her baby, it rapidly becomes a tearjerker. This is probably the most sincere track on the record, and her way of opening up on the record is yet another sign of her progression. As Long As I Got You brings the tone of the album up again, with an almost country instrumental and another expression of her love, this works as a follow on from her track Chinese, from It’s Not Me, It’s You. Eighth track, Close Your Eyes, brings another change in the mood of the album – this slower, softer and sexier track highlights another way in which she doesn’t care about being explicit with the public. (Oh, and she makes excellent use of layered vocals, though I’m not sure that’s the main focus of the track). URL Badman is another track which brings back her statements in her lyricism, with the sarcastic attitude of The Fear and what can only be classed as a rap. Next track, Silver Spoon, is another statement track about social stigmas and money and fame issues, before Life For Me speaks of her new life with kids and a marriage. Lines such as “it’s a bit early for a mid-life crisis” speak of exactly how life has changed her in the past few years, and who she’s become because of it.
Hard Out Here is a track I simply cannot speak highly enough of. She can write songs about sex, love, her family and the industry, but when it comes to feminist songs, no one does it like Lily Allen. The song slowly warms up to the catchy chorus “it’s hard out for a bitch”, before the second verse brings in a list of insults that girls are often getting thrown; “If you’re not a size six, then you’re not good looking // well, you better be rich, or be real good at cooking // you should probably lose some weight ’cause we can’t see your bones // you should probably fix your face or you’ll end up on your own”. The final line of this (“if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood”) underlines how many people would genuinely believe these insults to be okay. Record companies are big on taking risks such as submitting tracks like this to radio stations, so it’s understandable why she chose to release the album virally, with accompanying music video. Now it’s made its way to her most popular track on Spotify, and is undoubtedly her most talked-about track off the record. I cannot speak highly enough of this song.
The record jumps from romantic, to sincere, to playful and to political a lot, and the synthesised sound she rocks in this record accompanies her change in attitudes after her break. It’s everything I expected, and more. 10/10.