Lily Allen may act spoiled, but her music sounds sweet
Ask Lily Allen to describe her sound and she’ll offer one word: popskahop. And, the thing is, that’s a pretty good description. Combining danceable beats, walking bass lines, horn riffs and melodic raps, the sound she cultivates on her 2006 debut album, Alright, Still, has captured quite an audience.
Allen was only 21 years old when her album reached No. 1 in the U.K. last July. In September, her single “Smile” hit the United States. She has since hosted Saturday Night Live and seen Alright, Still named one of Entertainment Weekly’s top-10 albums of 2006.
The daughter of film producer Alison Owen and actor/comedian/musician Keith Allen, Lily Allen grew up in Hammersmith, a borough of London. With a mom who runs a production company (her dad left when she was four), Allen found herself running into popular celebrities like Victoria Beckham on a regular basis. “That’s why I’ve never been star struck,” she said in a recent interview.
Allen enjoyed a very privileged upbringing, attending numerous private schools. She changed schools 13 times during her childhood and was expelled several times. Then, while on holiday in Ibiza, Spain, Allen was introduced to her first manager, George Lamb. He put her in touch with music producers Future Cut, who wrote tracks for lyrics she had written.
“I write … like a rapper would, I suppose, with absolutely no melody involved whatsoever,” Allen explained. “I’m just getting my flow sorted. Then I write the whole text of the song and then ad lib the melody into the microphone. It’s not terribly clever!”
When Allen uploaded the tracks onto her MySpace page, people began taking notice, along with the U.K. music publication NME.
Despite the key role MySpace played in her success, it’s easy to forget Allen is only 21 years old—until you find out that what she does for fun is “smoke and drink” and that she’s openly insulted artists like Kylie Minogue, Bob Geldof and Luke Pritchard of the Kooks (who she attended private school with). Peek at her Web site, www.lilyallenmusic.com, and you’re met with a barrage of stimuli: videos, free MP3s, pictures and goodies like banners, skins and buddy icons. Her blog trades on haphazardly punctuated overshares: “The night before I wrote my last blog I managed to get into a fight with the band Jet, I wound Chris the drummer up the wrong way and he flicked a cigarette at me, I then threw a bottle at him, which luckily missed and all hell broke loose, I have no recollection of the whole event. Anyway this is precisely why I shouldn’t drink!”
The entire Allen experience is a world of bratty self-indulgence, which is refreshing only because it doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. “I don’t think I am particularly individual,” she said. She’s conquering the entire pop industry and giving it the finger at the same time, because Allen does what she wants, when she wants.
Allen doesn’t fantasize that her music career will last forever. “When all this ends—which will probably be in the next couple of years—I’d like to go into scouting. A&R,” Allen admitted. “I think I’d be good at it. I love going to see live music.”
Her career goals don’t stop there: British fashion chain New Look has announced that Allen will design a variety of clothes for them titled “Lily Loves.” The fashionista’s clothing designs will be available in May. Like her hit singles, her free downloads and the stories of her exploits, you can collect them all.
A few of Lily Allen’s favorite things
1. TV show: The West Wing (“I’m addicted”).
2. Song at the moment: “Golden Skans” by Klaxons
3. Snack: cream-cheese bagel
4. Accessory: handbag
5. Guilty pleasure: MySpace