Frequently Asked Questions: Lily Allen
By Courtney E. Smith
Frequently Asked Questions is exactly what it sounds like, where we have experts guide you through the unknown about people and topics in music and pop culture. Pop star Lily Allen announced that she’s got a new album, her third, coming out on May 6. The multiple videos she has released in advance of the album, as well as its title, have many people wondering: what is the deal with Lily Allen? We aim to address that and a few other pressing queries around the British mom with a big pop recording career.
Who is Lily Allen?
Lily Allen is a singer, a songwriter, a sharp social critic, a mother, the daughter of a famous British comedian and the older sister of Alfie Allen, who is better known as Theon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones. She appears to live for taking the piss out of people, but tends to have small breakdowns if anyone takes the piss out of her. It is, in equal parts, endearing and infuriating. After quite a long absence between recordings, now we’re on the cusp of the release of her third album, which she has decided to name Sheezus.
Why would Lily Allen name her album Sheezus?
She told the BBC’s Graham Norton, “It’s a confident title choice — and a little nod to Kanye West.” She clarified on Twitter, saying, “It’s an homage, not a piss take.” So yes, it is exactly what you think it is. Lily Allen is declaring herself the female messiah/Kanye West. This characterization may be a slight exaggeration of Allen’s intentions. Or it might not. One can never tell with these comedian/pop star types. We’ll wait to see if there are a series of video taped rants a la Kanye West to make that call.
What was she doing between albums that kept her away from music for so long?
Let’s see, the last album came out in 2009 so we’ll say she worked on it doing promotion and touring and such until 2010. Between now and then, she’s mostly dedicating time to her personal life. There was a wedding with a couture Chanel dress, there was a baby, there was another baby, there was her Lucy In Disguise boutique and there was work on this album (interrupted, it seems, by that second baby). Then, there was her collaboration with P!nk on the song “True Love,” which heralded her return. Not long after, we got “Hard Out Here.”
Why did everyone get so upset about “Hard Out Here”?
“Hard Out Here” was the first single released (back in November 2013) from Sheezus and the announcement that heralded Allen’s return to the world stage of relevant pop stars. And it immediately started a major s— storm of controversy. We’d just come out of a summer full of debates over the male gaze driven by Robin Thicke’s summer jam “Blurred Lines” and flown right into a fall full of debate about women, sexuality and race thanks to Miley Cyrus’s twerk-fest on the MTV VMAs. With “Hard Out Here” Allen kind of took all of that, put it into a blender and hit PUREE.
What everyone was up in arms about was the video. While exploring the visually comedic elements to run alongside the social commentary in her song, she ran afoul to cries of racism. Allen faced criticism from many who objected to her use of scantily clad black dancers performing highly sexualized dance movies, while she herself was fully clad and not doing much dancing.
Is Lily Allen racist?
No. Allen responded to her critics, clarifying that she did not request specific ethnicities for her dancers and a behind the scenes video on her YouTube channel shows her working with a black choreographer. She further said that the video is satirical and meant to be a light-hearted commentary, that she wasn’t half-naked herself because she thinks she doesn’t have the body for being in a bikini, that she wasn’t dancing because after two weeks of practice she was still horrid at it and that she is not going to apologize.
In summary: what she meant to be a comedic, biting commentary bit her in the ass because it was not fully thought out where race was concerned. She feels the concern is unwarranted. The internet at large disagrees. Classic stalemate.
What is Lily Allen’s best song?
Based entirely on the number of YouTube views, as in which video has the most, the answer would be “The Fear.”
Is Lily Allen a feminist?
Short answer: she says yes.
Lily Allen (@lilyallen) March 07, 2014
Long answer: this has been confusing lately because of something she was quoted as saying to the contrary in Short List, in which Lily Allen was billed as the guest editor. The mag’s cover story was interview presented as a Q&A in which Allen says, amongst other things,”Feminism. I hate that word because it shouldn’t even be a thing any more. We’re all equal, everyone is equal so why is there even a conversation about feminism? What’s the man version of feminism? There isn’t even a word for it. There’s no reason for it. Menanism. Male-ism. It doesn’t exist.”
In a series of tweets to a gossip site who authored a rebuttal piece, she confirmed that she was not actually editing the magazine, calling that a marketing tool; that she did not choose to title another article attributed to her in it How to Be a Man; that, “I said that I believe women are equal to men, we are all human;” and that she meant she doesn’t “want to have to talk about feminism, I want to live in a world where everyone gets the same deal.”
It’s not even clear if she is or isn’t being serious in the Twitter conversation quoted above. Such is the nature of text-based communication.
What other things did she say in that interview?
“…I don’t think men are the enemy, I think women are the enemy. I know that when I’m sitting in a restaurant and a really beautiful woman walks in, who’s skinny, I instinctively think, ‘Oh she’s really skinny and beautiful and I’m really fat and ugly.'”
Obviously those two statements caused quite an uproar with feminists and put Allen’s own body-image issues into stark relief. She hasn’t issued a public statement on the latter, but in some back and forth on Twitter with civilian critics has said the interviewer presented an “amalgamation of my words clumsily pieced together” but confirming that she wouldn’t be issuing an apology “because they’re a men’s magazine and I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Is Lily Allen right about feminism?
We’ll leave that up to you to call the audible on, based on whatever your worldview tells you. That bit about women being the enemy stings a lot, though. In deference to a discussion on Allen’s body image issues, two points: she is an admitted survivor of bulimia, which will really mess anyone up, and she does talk about body image, mainly her own point of view, almost nonstop in her lyrics. It’s not like that was a secret or anything it’s just a pretty jarring thing to say, in or out of context.
Is Lily Allen the original social media artist?
She is certainly one of the first to use the medium to maximum effect. Back in the day, she was the Queen of MySpace, generating a lot of attention for her music on the platform and often posting what were characterized as “rants” on her page — be the missives against the media, crying videos of herself, and here and there some music that drove her to the top of the buzz machine in advance of her first album.
The rants, feelings and so forth continue today with Lily Allen’s Twitter, making her an interesting and unpredictable pop star to follow. With the addition of Instagram to her repertoire, we also get shots of her at the Beyoncé show in London, bits and pieces of her children (she likes their tiny shoes very much) and important shots of her nail art. It’s a bit like the old thing, made shiny and new.