#40: Lily Allen - "Alright, Still" (2006)

I owe Lily Allen an apology. As does, I think, most of the people who were in her marketing team, as well as a great swathe of politicians but for now, I'm going to admit mea culpa here. For some reason, I thought she'd only recently gone through a political and personal self-awareness but that just goes to show what I know. A lot of this I lay down at the door of my own prejudices and impressions of a certain set of West London social stereotypes that was not helped in the slightest by the short shlockumentary series that followed Lily and her half-sister, Sarah, setting up their couture-for-hire shop Lucy In Disguise. It was narrated by Simon Callow and made Allen out to be more than a little deluded and ungrateful, living in a bubble, which felt manufactured and the part of a cruel editorial campaign. But it showed her during a harrowing miscarriage and there was no getting round or editing her immense strength and bravery to be seen during that time, her second experience of having a wanted pregnancy taken from her by the worst luck.

Listening to her first album, Alright, Still, it smacks me in the face that she always been unafraid to speak her mind, amplifying the voices of those not listened to,  whilst also being wickedly funny. I also forgot that, despite her famous parents, her own rise to fame was pushed as a narrative of democracy, that particular fable of the mid-noughties of the MySpace samples going wild, meaning a relatively safe bet for a record company after what was essentially a free hype campaign. The second half of the album was completed with more external help, and it fizzles out somewhat, but Allen's songwriting strength is her satirical slant. Everything I found lacking in Zappa is in abundance here. The sugary pop is the perfect contrast to her social commentary, particularly in the love-hate letter to England's capital, LDN. The press has focused on her personal life and spent more column inches discussing the possible muses of her relationship songs, way before Taylor Swift, but, from what I can tell, there's been a lack of widespread appreciation of her near Brechtian treatment of modern living, particularly as an ambitious and flawed woman.

What other pop singers at the time discussed their dismay at rising house prices and how to shirk off unwanted male attention? And how to make it catchy, too? Whilst wearing a prom dress and trainers, a look that revolutionised my idea of how to be both comfortable and glam?

Outstanding, Still.