If you haven’t heard of Lily Allen, then you clearly haven’t been anywhere near an indie blog in the past two years. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah dominated the blogosphere in 2005, and it helped push their debut album to instant stardom. 2006 was Lily’s year. Her debut album, Alright, Still, launched in early February in the United Kingdom, and she instantly became blog fodder thanks to her scathing jabs at pop stars and stunning good looks. Even fellow label-mate Colin Meloy was giving props to the young British lass. Now, with the same album finally set to debut in America, the blog overload can begin once again – and rightfully so.

Though her album cover might suggest someone childish and playful – she’s riding a bike next to an English Bull Terrier wearing a bobby’s helmet – Allen bites hard. What makes her special is how she combines a sexy, kittenish attitude with sharp lyrical rants. She also uses her MySpace page as a posting ground for her no-holds-barred blow-ups concerning Britain’s NME magazine and the underground dog-snatchers that ganked her beloved Maggie May.

Then you get into her album. The opening track, “Smile,” throws Allen’s attitude to the forefront, sampling Althea & Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking” as she quips, “When you first left me / I was wanting more / But you were fucking that girl next door / What’dya you do that for?” Very few artists can get away with such a line and make it adorable. The reggae backdrop blends perfectly with Allen’s scathing indictment of her ex, creating a track both edgy and accessible.

Allen’s passion for sex resonates throughout the album. “Knock ‘Em Out” gives advice on how to evade sleazy British pick-up lines: “And no you can’t have my number / Because I lost my phone.” The combination of trumpet bleats, fleeting piano and hectic drumming meshes with the off-kilter rejection jabs. Allen even resorts to biological warfare near the end of the track by adding sarcastic quips about having herpes and syphilis.

Lily drops a little street cred on “LDN,” which describes a run-in with the police. More crisp first lines declare, “Walking through the city with my bike all day / ‘Cause the filth took away my license.” And what would a London street be without some drug references? Lily’s got those covered, too. “Everything seems to look as it should / But I wonder what goes on behind doors / A fella looking dapper and he’s sitting with a slapper / And I see it’s a pimp and his crack whore.” The track is propelled by a persistent bass line and drum pattern, occasionally interrupted by trumpet calls.

Though the album is front-loaded (but what good pop debut isn’t?), Ms. Allen still combines sharp street lyrics, danceable reggae beats and an English touch that makes her the perfect female answer to Mike Skinner.

Though she may never reach the universal appeal of other female hip-hoppers – see Lady Sovereign or Missy Elliot – Allen has managed to carve out a deeply idiosyncratic niche in the rap market. Her music is fan-friendly, just don’t piss her off … or hit on her at a pub.

Lily Allen
Alright, Still

Capitol

rating: 4 stars out of 5

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