Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lily Allen

  • Alright, Still [Capitol, 2007] A-
  • It's Not Me It's You [Capitol, 2009] A
  • Sheezus [Warner Bros., 2014] A-
  • No Shame [Warner Bros., 2018] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Alright, Still [Capitol, 2007]
In a no-frills voice that carries a tune as easily as a schoolkid carries a backpack, the 21-year-old daughter of performing arts professionals plays a girl sticking up for herself, creating an illusion of the ordinary that seems as simple and inevitable as punk without punk shock and/or rage. Just to help out, her well-attuned producers pretend that ska was a basic pop component in an era not yet lost. Only two songs ring false: the one about her ex's penis because everybody lies about that, and the one about keeping it real because all the 21-year-olds sing that tune--and because she isn't real, really. A-

It's Not Me It's You [Capitol, 2009]
She is too a role model--for chart queens, bohemians born-and-raised, and paparazzi victims everywhere. True, her synth-pop album debuted below India.Arie at five before its SoundScan swan dive. But even diving she's more graceful than most, and she has every expectation of popping out of the pool and climbing the ladder again, which is how her first one went gold. Here the modestly likable, oddly uncategorizable singer of Alright, Still emerges as that rare thing, a vocalist of genuine technical command who sounds like no one else--and even rarer, like everygirl at the same time. The snarky lyricist of Alright, Still achieves new amalgams of aesthetic specificity and masscult applicability--the love song "Who'd Have Known," the dad song "He Wasn't There," even the God song "Him." She does synth-pop right not by providing a template but by demonstrating its adaptability. Pink, relax. Christina, quiet songs about your baby beckon. Kelly, stop flexing your vocal cords and let your brain do the emoting. A

Sheezus [Warner Bros., 2014]
The key's in a multivalent lyric she balances with a surehandedness that isn't guaranteed the way it was when she was single: "Life for Me," a tuneful rendering among many tuneful renderings (hell, all five bonus misses are tuneful) about feeling nostalgic for the discontented days marital bliss has put behind her forever, or so she usually thinks. Even when that bliss devolves into a painful argument, she can put it into song, and though the bite that was her premarital specialty has softened, give her credit--marital bliss is a theme few lyricists sharpen much at all. Opposites that attract: "Our Time," in which single working girls get wasted on Friday night, and the scornful celebrity-feminist "Hard Out Here." A-

No Shame [Warner Bros., 2018]
Thrown out of whack by bad romance and worse social media, she's no longer so clever about putting up a front or hiding behind a tune, but don't assume it's permanent--not yet ("Three," "My One") *

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