Album Review: Lily Allen—”Sheezus”

By Kurt Grunsky

Before beginning this review, it’s important to acknowledge the context of Sheezus: the album breaks what has been a five year absence for Lily Allen since the second of her two remarkably consistent and witty pop efforts, making expectations high. It also follows a wave of controversy questioning Allen’s status as a feminist icon, much of which is centred around a particular video which seems (misunderstanding or not) to be pretty racist. Despite this, I have tried my best to put the context aside and review the album on its own terms, and I have good news and bad news: the good news is that the album has its fair share of impressively mature song-writing moments; the bad news is that Sheezus is Allen’s least consistent and most frustrating album so far.

A screencap of the controversial "Hard Out Here" music video.

A screencap of the controversial “Hard Out Here” music video.

The best of the bunch are the love songs — not the merely adequate sex jam “Close Your Eyes,” but the Bo Diddley bounce of “As Long As I Got You,” and the dancehall-inspired “L8 CMMR.” The former tells a touching story of how her lover rescued her from empty drug habits overtop of an energetic beat, while the latter thrives on rhythmic intensity, pronouncing her man a “bad motherfucker.” This, folks, is how to properly use auto-tune — as an aesthetic effect rather than a vocal crutch.

In contrast to the songs about her personal life, the party songs are a bit of a mixed bag. “Air Balloon” seems shallow and frivolous at first, but its giddy hook gives it staying power. “Our Time,” however, feels forced and a little too bland to inspire anyone to party. The cynical “Insincerely Yours” benefits from its funkier production and Allen’s sarcastic tone. She lends a similar tone to “URL Badman,” her witty critique of misogynistic internet bloggers, complete with ironic dubstep wobbles.

The problem is that for every great moment on this album, there’s a maddening slip-up you wish Allen had thought twice about before recording. A perfect example of this arrives near the album’s end with the motherhood-depression song “Life For Me,” which would probably evoke more sympathy from the listener if it wasn’t placed directly after the musically-wonderful, lyrically-questionable “Silver Spoon,” which attempts to defend her relatively rich upbringing. The album manages to end on a better note, though, with the vicious “Hard Out Here.” Separated from its racist music video, the song manages to redeem Allen with quips such as, “Have you thought about your butt, who’s gonna tear it in two?” It makes you wish she was as consistently funny and creative on the rest of the album. (Parlophone)

Listen to: “L8 CMMR,” “As Long As I Got You,” “Hard Out Here”


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