February 22, 2007

A Lil’ Knock Out

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Once upon a time, yours truly stumbled upon an unknown musical sensation by the name of Lily Allen, courtesy of iTunes and Jane Magazine (proving that good can come of commercialism). Lil’s four-song debut offered the perfect can’t-help-but-sing-out-loud, dance-in-public music, and had me lusting after more. And more is what she’s brought with her new album, Alright, Still, perfecting a balance of British irony, cockney attitude and a pulsating beat that would force even the shyest wallflower to shake their bum.

If you’re desperate for an oversimplified description, than Alright, Still — and Lily in general — can be described as the illegitimate love child of the Spice Girls and the Streets… if that love child turned around, punched out her father, and laughed at how cotton-candy-dumb her mom was.

On a solely-lyrical level Alright, Still brings in an element of blunt sarcasm with a cheeky, coy charm that’s lost in most pop, Brit pop and hip hop albums today. Add a diverse range of unique instrumental and electronic compositions that characterize every music genre from big band to bossa nova, with a beat better than any club spin, and it’s no wonder why everyone’s raving.

After a reprise of “Smile,” Lily delves into a series of insultingly honest, true to life songs, baring into everyone from an ex-boyfriend (“Not Big”) to her weed-smoking little brother (“Alfie”) to her grandma (“Nan, you’re a window shopper”) with the aforementioned musical bite.

The best track is “Knock ‘Em Out,” which packs the one-two punch of deprecating lyrics (“Go away now, just let me go/ Are you stupid, or just a slow?”) and a background beat that seduces you into moving before you even notice. Can you really blame the clueless guys and girls she’s mocking for hitting on her, when her seductively contemptuous, coy voice half-talks, half-sings, laughing at you even as she dares you to come closer? She croons and you’re trapped in a hot fuscia-colored web of pulsating beats, ironic humor, coy girlish charm and an unstoppable flow of British indolence. Her voice, deceptively sweet like Hot Tamales, twists its hips through the rest of the tracks, biting its lip and winking at you over its shoulder.

As a fair warning, she may be a bit much for those uncomfortable with the “F” word (that’s feminist), but what she really is is scathingly, unstoppably honest. And she’s as much a ballbuster for the girls as she is for the boys: in “Friday Night,” she lays into the girls with the same good humor: “Good dancing love but you should of worn a bra.” Equal-opportunity insulter or not, Lily Allen remains the sharp-witted, crooning sensation that brings a new angle to pop music. And for that, you should be very, very grateful — even if it’s just for the addition to your dance-music collection.