When she sees you cry, gasp, it makes her smile! It has been four long years since fans were able to see that triumphant grin, but now the Queen of Schadenfreude, Lily Allen, is back for more with No Shame, which arrives Friday, June 8, 2018, thanks to Warner Music.
As referenced above, Allen’s career exploded in 2006 with her first mainstream single, the facetious anthem “Smile.” This propelled the British Singer-Songwriter, Actress, and TV personality to No. 1, placing her into the public eye and garnering nominations for Grammy Awards, Brit Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards. She would go on to release three full-length studio albums: 2006’s Alright, Still, 2009’s It’s Not Me, It’s You, and 2014’s Sheezus, and share stages with the likes of Miley Cyrus, La Roux, and her long-time producer and friend, Mark Ronson.
Here’s your Lily trivia for the day: her brother, Alfie Allen, the inspiration behind the aptly-titled song “Alfie,” is an accomplished actor who you may have spotted in some series called Game of Thrones. In fact, acting is in the family’s blood, and Lily actually got her start in entertainment at the age of three, appearing in an episode of The Comic Strip Presents…, which was co-written by her father.
Back to the present. As with so many artists today, Allen’s career has not been without controversy or personal tragedy, and she has met each of these challenges head-on. Disenfranchised by the state of music and needing some personal time for herself, she recently stepped away from recording for four years to explore her own headspace. The end result is No Shame, a 14-song deeply personal testament to the fortitude of this talented woman. Co-produced with a multitude of talents – from Ronson (Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars) to Art Pop musician Fryars, BloodPop (Justin Bieber, Hailee Steinfeld) to Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend – the album shows Allen delving deep into the tattered strings of her heart, using music as a catharsis to try and mend the damage that life has wrought.
No Shame begins with “Come On Then,” where Hip Hop-worthy beats anchor electronic atmospherics and confessional vocals. In fact, Allen sounds as fabulous as ever as she ironically admits that she’s a bad mother and a bad wife. However, what she is really doing is baiting trolls who believe they know her when all they know is the face in a JPG, all with that saccharine sweetness that sounds like candy while spitting pure poison. Then, Rapper Giggs delivers the first, sultry-sounding verse of first single/video “Trigger Bang,” an admonishment of false friends. Okay, so Allen won’t be hanging with the ‘cool gang,’ but that doesn’t make her any less sassy, right?
There are no Gwen Stefani or Harajuku Girls on “What You Waiting For?,” a gentle nod to Allen’s Ska-dusted roots, sonically speaking. Here, she delves into deeply personal nooks and crannies, discussing her marriage, separation, and, ultimately, divorce. Burna Boy injects some Reggae pizzazz into “Your Choice,” a further, yet more generalized exploration of relationships that sounds like a dip in the ocean in July. Though the track is a catchy Pop song that is superbly radio-friendly (minus that one “fuck”), it doesn’t hold the same power as the album’s more soul-wrenching or truly sassy material.
The meandering island beats of “Lost My Mind” see Allen confessing that her devolving personal situation may have caused her to question her own sanity once or twice or thrice. Whatever the case, No Shame is clearly her closure. Meanwhile, another Rapper, Meridian Dan, kicks off “Higher,” which sees Allen washing her hands of an old lover, presumably her ex, and questioning his motives. Here, she goes to the upper reaches of her vocal register to parallel the song’s title as she sounds like forgiveness yet promises to never forget the lies.
With piano accompaniment, Allen goes sultry lounge act on “Family Man,” a beautiful confession that, despite the hardships, she hopes her relationship is going to survive. Meanwhile, the delicate twinkle of “Apples” is a sultry little bop that sees her lamenting ancestral mistakes and apologizing for breaking someone’s heart. Next, the bittersweet piano ballad “Three” sees Allen placing herself in her children’s shoes during a divorce. Piano also anchors the jazzy pop sway of “Everything to Feel Something,” a touching stunner that is one of the clear highlights of this collection. Like passion’s blood leaking onto the concrete, Allen shares her heartaches through her gift of song.
Ska-dusted “Waste” features Lady Chann and sets a steady beat as it admonishes those who take, take, take, while bass anchors the cute and catchy “My One,” a little bop that talks of sending losers off in Ubers when they’re not, you know, The One. Allen’s thinking of having some babies in the pretty little twinkle of “Pushing Up Daisies,” a loving embrace of finding The One and dreaming of the future. Ultimately, she ends with a bite of “Cake,” where everyone is going to have the sweets and eat them too.
Sonically speaking, No Shame is a bit generic and Allen shines brightest when she abandons those recycled, overused Hip Hop beats (“Family Man,” “Everything to Feel Something”). However – and this is a big however – this is clearly an album that Allen absolutely had to make. Fraught with deep, personal epiphanies and heart-wrenching confessions, No Shame shows that there is no reason to be shamefaced by your foibles in life. In fact, the best way to take back your personal power is to own your mistakes and maintain an honest and open heart – even if you struggle along the road to happiness. In this respect, No Shame is an important moment in the oeuvre of Allen’s career. Understated yet weighty, CrypticRock give Lily Allen’s No Shame 3.5 of 5 stars.