Song of the Day #330: ’22’ – Lily Allen

lilyallenIt’s funny how you become a fan.

Often you just know… you know 30 seconds into the first song you hear by a new artist that they own you. I felt that way about Ben Folds, Elvis Costello, Tift Merritt, Josh Rouse, Belle and Sebastian and many others.

Other times you miss the boat completely and then circle back to catch up later. My favorite example is Lucinda Williams, whom I heard and shrugged off before revisiting her months later and falling hard. Another is Beck, whose Odelay initially went over my head. I rediscovered him through the laid-back Mutations and now I love it all.

Then there’s that group I like to think of as homework artists. I always knew The Beatles by osmosis and liked them because, well, they’re The Beatles. But the summer after my junior year of high school I devoured their entire catalog, learned everything about them. Same goes for Bob Dylan, whose career I became obsessed with during my sophomore year.

Others are inherited. I grew up as a fan of Carly Simon, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon the way other kids grow up as Catholics or Protestants. I didn’t ask questions, I just did what was expected of me. Lucky for me my parents had good taste in music!

But today’s SOTD is about another category entirely… artists you fall for without even realizing it. If I sat down a week ago to write down a list of bands and solo artists of which I consider myself a “fan,” I bet I wouldn’t have included Lily Allen. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I don’t usually gravitate toward her sort of music — although I’m not sure her sort of music can be easily categorized… it’s a blend of pop, hip-hop, ska and new wave, I guess, but mostly it’s just Lily Allen.

But I’m definitely a fan. I love both of her albums and, more important, I play them. So often I find albums on my shelf that I really enjoy and appreciate but they don’t find their way into my CD player or earbuds. But even if I can nitpick some of Allen’s material, I frequently find myself reaching for it.

Which, by the way, is another definition of fandom: the ability to look past flaws because you just like something so damn much (it’s the reason Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favorite movies despite Keanu Reeves’ performance).

I also feel this way about Garbage. I owned and loved three of their albums before I realized I was officially a “fan” of theirs. Maybe the connection is cheeky brunettes with irresistibly sexy accents. Know any others?

When she was 22 the future looked bright
But she’s nearly 30 now and she’s out every night
I see that look in her face she’s got that look in her eye
She’s thinking how did I get here and wondering why

It’s sad but it’s true how society says
Her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
Til the man of her dreams comes along picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

She’s got an alright job but it’s not a career
Wherever she thinks about it, it brings her to tears
Cause all she wants is a boyfriend
She gets one-night stands
She’s thinking how did I get here
I’m doing all that I can

It’s sad but it’s true how society says
Her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
Til the man of her dreams comes along picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

25 thoughts on “Song of the Day #330: ’22’ – Lily Allen

  1. Amy says:

    Almost sounds a bit like the “gulity pleasure” post from a while ago. Are you reluctant to admit fandom for some of these artists?

    Meanwhile, I love the notion of artists we inherit. Yes, I, too, am glad our parents have good taste – in music, movies, television shows. I grew up on Taxi, MASH, Cheers, and Moonlighting on television, Carly Simon and Frank Sinatra on the reel to reel player and The Manchurian Candidate and The Godfather (when we were of age, of course) as mandatory film viewing πŸ™‚

  2. Clay says:

    I don’t think it’s the same as a guilty pleasure. Neither of the examples I gave here are “uncool” to like, and both are critically well-reviewed. Perhaps it’s because the sort of music they make is different from the sort of thing I usually gravitate toward.

  3. Dana says:

    I”m not sure what you think you “usually” gravitate towards. I think the same person who enjoys Beyonce, MIA and Hanson would gravitate to this type of music.

    Good song, nice sound.

  4. Clay says:

    But I don’t consider myself a “fan” of any of those people.

  5. Kerrie says:

    You’re not a fan of MIA?? All reviews to the contrary, my friend… πŸ˜‰

    I have to say, I have never heard Lily Allen before and I do really like her sound – the music as well as her voice. I am intrigued, though, that she sounds so clearly British. There aren’t so many British artists I’ve heard that can easily be identified as such – they usually keep the accent out somehow. I like that her accent is front and center in her singing – seems more authentic somehow…

  6. Dana says:

    Well, I’m not sure exactly how you define being a “fan” It’s clearly a slippery slope between liking an artist and being a fan. I was just saying that it’s not surprising that you would be a fan in that you tend to like smart pop music, particularly of artists who blend styles and genres. Perhaps I would be more suprised to learn that you were a “fan” of a heavy metal band as I don’t see you gravitating toward that sound.

  7. Clay says:

    Bear in mind that I’m making this up as I go… but I’d define “fan” as planing without question to buy a new album by the artist on the day of release having never heard a second of what’s on it.

    I bought Elvis Costello’s latest simply because Elvis Costello had a new album out and I had to get it. I got the new Dave Matthews Band as well, but only after reading some strong reviews and deciding it sounded like something I’d like. So I’m a fan of Elvis Costello, but not of DMB (even though I really love a lot of their early stuff).

  8. Clay says:

    Kerrie, funny you should mention the accent thing… I brought up the whole question of artists who mask (or don’t mask) their accents while singing last time I featured Lily Allen.

  9. Dana says:

    Well, by your definition, I would say you are a fan of A LOT of artists–particulary those who have only a few releases. Indeed, I would say that you used to be a fan of DMB by your defintion because you rushed out and bought a number of their albums, even downloading the Lillywhite Sessions–but then you became disillusioned with them around the time of their official release after Lillywhite, and never really came back.

    I suspect that you remain a fan of artists like Dylan and Costello because, by and large, they don’t disappoint or, at least, they have such cred built up over so many years, that you forgive the occassional clunker song or even weaker album.

    Still even established artists can lose your fan status. Tom Petty comes to mind–one too many mediocre albums and he gets removed, no? or are you still a Petty fan?

    I think your “fan” designation in music is much like your fan designation for movies, where you seem to be a fan of a number of directors who have made only a handful of movies without a dud in the mix, but then less of a fan of some of the great directors with some duds (like Woody Allen for example). So, you will run to see the next Cuaron movie, but not so much the new Allen movie.

    Which brings us back to this Allen:) I think that if she puts out two clunker albums in a row — you will drop your fan status.

  10. Clay says:

    Well, Elvis and Dylan have put out clunkers but I continue to stay with them. Same with Woody Allen… he’s certainly in a slump but I’m a huge Woody Allen fan. So I guess if an artist builds up enough good will he or she gets grandfathered in.

    Dave Matthews Band didn’t build up quite enough good will with their first few albums to hold me after their next few. I guess we’ll see if Lily Allen goes down that path or the other.

    I’m a fan of several Tom Petty albums and songs, but I’ve never felt the need to own a lot of his early stuff (or his late stuff). So I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of his in general. When I’m a “fan” of an artist, I want to get everything they’ve ever done.

  11. Dana says:

    Elvis and Dylan really have not put out clunkers since the time that you became a fan of their work. I can’t believe you are denying being a DMB fan at one time. I was there. You were.

    As for Woody Allen–you haven’t rushed out to see a number of his past few movies–waiting weeks to see them, and sometimes waiting for DVD. Sure, you are a “fan” of early Woody–but I don’t think you can call yourself a present day fan since you no longer gobble up his films.

  12. Clay says:

    I wouldn’t put the same criteria (the same-day purchase) on films and CDs. It’s a lot easier to buy a CD than to see a movie (and a lot cheaper). While I haven’t loved some of Woody’s recent films, I definitely still consider myself a fan of the man himself. Of course he’s built up so many fan points with his early work that he could coast forever.

    I’m not saying I wasn’t a fan of DMB in the early days, just that they managed to lose me. That’s a case where they didn’t build up enough fan points.

  13. Dana says:

    I suppose it’s possible to at one time be a fan of something or someone, and then lose interest. However, it seems to me that to truly be a fan, that feeling should not be transitory. Thus, it could be argued that, if you no longer care about the next release by Tom Petty, DMB, or Woody Allen, then you are no longer a “fan” of those artists.

    Putting this in another context, I am a fan of the Dolphins. I was a fan even through the departure of Marino, through the recent 1-15 season, etc…. I will always be interested in news about the Fins and I would watch the games no matter how many bad seasons they have. Similarly, I am a fan of Star Trek–I will eagerly seek out each new mission, no matter how many lesser missions there may have been after Wrath of Khan. Yes, it was wonderful seeing the last one, which was outstanding by any objective measure, but the truth is I would have seen it if had a 15% tomoto rating–.

    In music, I am clearly a fan of Elvis Costello–each new album is must buy. I may not have been thrilled with The Juliette Letters, but I was going to be buying the next one after that, and the next and the next. Same is true for Randy Newman. I am also, of course, a fan of Billy Joel, and, even though he is no longer recording, if he ever started again, i would be buying anything he did, even if it was considered crap by critics. And unlike a certain brother-in-law I know, I wouldn’t sell back the lesser album. A fan doesn’t do that. (although a fan may give those albums little to no attention:)

    Well, we can continue this discussion/debate tomorrow:)

  14. Amy says:

    Dana and I discussed this quite a bit over dinner tonight, though I was unable to weigh in the discussion during the day.

    To me, one of the important distinctions is this – a fan can be critical. A fan can be discerning. A fan doesn’t have to simply accept as gold everything produced by whatever artist, musician, director, writer the fan appreciates. In fact, I’d say it’s the solemn duty of the fan, the true mark of the FAN, to be discerning, to create lists that point out which of Rob Reiner’s films are the best, and which fight for the bottom spot.

    I also think that the nature of true fandom should limit the number of “things” of which you can be a fan. To use Dana’s example – one can’t be a fan of the Miami Dolphins, The Dallas Cowyboys, and the Green Bay Packers. Pick a team. That’s your team. Sure, you can have a few more musicians, filmmakers, television shows that can earn your fan embrace, but once you add Lily Allen to the mix, aren’t you just listing people you like a lot? Don’t you need to dedicate a wall to the object of your appreciate (as I literally did in college, or Maddie has now done in her room for The Beatles) or carry a lunchbox (again – Maddie + Beatles) or fill your corkboard with flair or stick a bumper sticker on your car or something that announces to the world (or whatever slice of the world with which you happen to interact) – THIS is the thing upon which I put my stamp of approval. THIS has earned my adoration. For THIS I am a fanatic. Of THIS, I am a fan.

  15. Dana says:

    Yes, Amy has hit on it—so until I see that Lily Allen poster in your bedroom, Clay, you sir are NOT a fan!

  16. Clay says:

    Dana, I think we’re making the same point… fandom isn’t transitory, which is why I don’t consider myself a “fan” of Dave Matthews Band today even though I once did.

    On the flip side, though, I absolutely consider myself a Woody Allen fan even if he’s fallen off his perch in the past decade. Maybe there’s a distinction between movies and music, because I consider myself a Rob Reiner fan, too, though he hasn’t made a great movie in more than a decade. Reiner’s first seven films put him in the pantheon, regardless of what he did after that. Same goes for pretty much everything Woody released until the mid 90s.

    Interesting thought… why do I treat film makers and musicians different in this regard?

    Back to music… do you own Almost Blue, The Juliet Letters or Goodbye Cruel World? I don’t think not owning any of those albums (or selling them back) would make you any less of an Elvis Costello fan. I think that’s just the difference between a completist and a non-completist.

  17. Clay says:

    Amy, I don’t think a wall collage is really the measure of fandom, at least not once you’re out of middle school or the dorm room! πŸ™‚

    I do think there is a limit, which is sort of what this post was about. My number is higher than yours, probably just because I listen to a lot more music than you do. But there is a distinction between artists I’m a “fan” of (in the inflated sense we’re discussing here) and artists I just like.

    I like Ryan Adams, but I’m a fan of Fiona Apple. I like Elton John but I’m a fan of Elvis Costello. Now those are rather obvious examples, but I’m also a fan of Michael Penn, John Mayer, Shakira and Lily Allen. To a lesser degree than Costello and Apple, but to a higher degree than Adams or John.

  18. Amy says:

    I think a wall collage is simply a physical manifestation of fandom. I just checked out your corkboard on FB and found evidence of love for the Coen brothers, Friday Night Lights, Arrested Development/Michael Cera, Bob Dylan, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Stephen Colbert…

    I’d say that’s a rather accurate snapshot of your fandomness πŸ™‚

  19. Dana says:

    See, I don’t think you can call yourself a present day fan of Rob Reiner or Woody Allen. At best, you can say you loved their early work. To continue the sports analogy, I don’t think you can say you were a fan of the 70’s Dolphins, but haven’t been since. It just doesn’t work.

    As for Elvis, I had Juliette Letters at some point, and I may have sold it back:) My only defense there is that I was probably in a more embryonic stage of my Elvis appreciation back then and the $5 probably was much more meaningful to me back then. But I couldn’t see selling back any Costello record now. I’ve never owned Almost Blue or Goodbye Cruel World. but I do have some interest in owning them (even though I know from having heard a fair amount of them that they are not his best stuff)

    Now, to show you how much I was a fan of Billy Joel, I at one time owned the two records released by his first band, The Hassles. Not sure where those records went, nor am I sure they are even out on CD. It was mostly dreadful music, however.

  20. Clay says:

    But a very incomplete one. πŸ™‚ And I think I have Shirley Manson up there, too.

  21. Amy says:

    Is that Before Sunrise there? Yup, I’d say you don’t have to be in middle school or live in a dorm room to manifest your fan appreciation in a collage, fair boy πŸ˜‰

  22. Clay says:

    Aha! So you sold back The Juliet Letters… so you are therefore not an Elvis Costello fan, by your own definition! I don’t buy the embryonic argument, either. That album came out in 1993, long after you became a huge Costello fan.

  23. Dana says:

    Look, seriously, you can’t be a fan of so many things–it simply dilutes the whole definition of a fan. Kinda like how Amy calling everthing insane really dilutes the definition of insanity (tonight she called the price of concessions at the theater insane–I had to call her on it and say that something that has been overpriced forever isn’t really insane–just outrageous perhaps)

    Or as Syndrome said in The Incredibles, when everybody is special, then nobody will be:)

  24. Dana says:

    Not so long after on Juliet–I started getting ino Elvis in Cambridge, which was about 1988. Anyway, having only increased in my obsessiveness over Elvis in the past 20 years, I will simply say that I would not have made the same decision today!

  25. Clay says:

    Non-fan! Non-fan! πŸ™‚

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