Lily Allen’s second album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, sticks to the template of her smash debut Alright, Still — cheeky pop songs driven by piano and percussion — but introduces a hit-and-miss element of social consciousness.
That element is most apparent on strong opening track ‘Everyone’s At It’, about the abuse of both illegal and prescription drugs, and ‘Fuck You,’ a shot at G.W. Bush that feels about two years too late. That track, with it’s candy-sweet piano line and infectious chorus, would have made a great break-up song but it sinks fast as political commentary. It almost makes you feel bad for Bush. Almost.
Otherwise, Allen splits her time between the sort of clever kiss-off pop she perfected on her debut and more introspective fare. ‘Not Fair,’ over a country-fueled musical pastiche best described as techno-hoedown, describes a boyfriend who is a dream everywhere except between the sheets. True to style, she doesn’t shy away from the raunchy details:
I’m feeling pretty damn hard done by
I spent ages giving head
Then I remember all the nice things that you ever said to me
Maybe I’m just overreacting maybe you’re the one for me
‘Never Gonna Happen’ combines a brutal dumping with an apology for her habit of calling the poor sap up for ex-sex:
But it’s been weeks since I got laid
That doesn’t mean that I don’t think you’re a fool
But I don’t understand what else a girl in my position’s to do
How on earth could I be anymore obvious?
It never really did and now it’s never gonna happen with the two of us
That’s our Lily…
As enjoyable as those tracks are, the album’s most successful songs have Allen leaving her snarky comfort zone and exploring genuine emotional attachments. ‘Who’d Have Known’ is an instant winner, reaching back to the blissful pop of ‘Littlest Things’ on her debut, that depicts a friendship blossoming into romance. Her vocals on this track are among the best on the album, especially when you can hear her wide smile as she sings the last line of this verse:
And I’m becoming amazed how you’re quite affectionate in public
In fact, your friend said it made her feel sick
And even though it’s moving forward
There’s just the right amount of awkward
And today you accidentally called me baby
That song is followed by my other favorite on the album, ‘Chinese,’ in which the singer laments her frequent traveling and longs to return home for the simplest domestic pleasures:
And you say that all that it takes is a phone call
I cry at the thought of being alone and then
I wonder how long it will take til I’m home again
I don’t want anything more
Than to see your face when you open the door
You’ll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea
And we’ll get Chinese and watch TV
“Beans and toast’ is a nice segue into the other thing I love about Lily Allen, which is how bloody British she is. Her Cockney accent, whether played up for effect or not, is irresistible. There’s just something about hearing “thirty” pronounced “thuh-e” that really gets me going.
While It’s Not Me, It’s You doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, it is far from a sophomore slump. On the contrary, it suggests Lily Allen has a pretty healthy career ahead of her.
‘Who’d Have Known’
‘The Fear’ (first single)