Lily Allen
It’s Not Me, It’s You

Courtesy of Capitol

3.5 out of 5 stars

Lily Allen has something to prove. Her debut album, 2006’s Alright, Still, was rightfully lauded as a piece of British pop gold. But since its release, Allen hasn’t been able to keep herself out of the public eye. Tabloids have documented her relationships and substance abuse, and her frequent call-outs on her MySpace blog have fueled celebrity feuds. It’s Not Me, It’s You serves as a much-needed reminder of the real reason Allen gets all this attention: She is a fabulous pop songwriter.

On her latest disc, the always opinionated Allen takes shots at society, individuals and even herself and her celebrity status. The first single “The Fear” is an assault on materialistic culture, placing clever couplets like “I am a weapon of massive consumption / and it’s not my fault / It’s how I’m programmed to function” against a refreshingly weightless soundscape. The song’s lush electro-pop vibe introduces a new musical theme for Allen. The ska and reggae-infused pop rock of Alright, Still is replaced by a synth-heavy electronic feel with a few traces of traditional guitar and drums.

Despite her newfound affinity for electro-pop, Allen still finds a way to remain musically creative. “Not Fair” sounds like the theme song for a 21st century spaghetti western. The outlaw in this tale is criticized for his inability to satisfy his partner in bed. The perfect production and Allen’s droll lyrical presentation make it one of the most innovative and enjoyable songs in Allen’s repertoire.

Another clever musical turn takes place as “Never Gonna Happen” opens with a waltzy accordion, easing its way into an irresistible chorus lined with blissful xylophone plinks.

Presented in a more conventional pop mold, “I Could Say” is a stereotypical love song with drum machine and lush piano, which creates a bubblegummy feel. The novelty of this style, which is pervasive on the album, gets tired at points. But Allen’s consistent cleverness keeps things afloat.

Allen holds nothing back on “Fuck You,” a direct address to the George W. Bush. Lyrically, it might be the most accurately conveyed and clearly stated protest song in years. It’s the perfect bookend to a decade of worthy anti-Bush songs. Vocally, however, the track spins out of control as its unremitting cursing is terribly overdone and proves unnecessary in getting the point across.

Despite its controversial subject matter, the album has a certain sobriety about it. On “22” Allen conveys an instant dose of nostalgia as she recounts her biography from the perspective of media reporters who are desperate to paint her career as a failure. Allen laments by saying “It’s sad but it’s true how society says / her life is already over / There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say.” The lyrics might sound self-deprecating, but they act as a broad metaphor for the album as a whole.

It’s Not Me, It’s You is a statement to Allen’s critics and a gift to her fans displayed through snarky humor and sadistic statements laid across well-produced pop songs. Her ability to deliver undeniably clever couplets with a deliciously British tone makes it clear that a sophomore slump was never an option.

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