Best Songs of 2009 – #5
I recently named Lily Allen’s Alright, Still on my list of the last decade’s best album so that gives you an idea of the act her sophomore release, It’s Not Me, It’s You, had to follow. This album wasn’t the equal of that one but it was great nonetheless, mining some new territory for Allen while legitimizing the acclaim she received for her debut.
As smart and sarcastic as Allen can be, and as withering with a put-down, I’ve always been most intrigued by her more romantic material. I suppose a sweet song from a bitter person feels more earned somehow.
Lily Allen makes my list of sexy performers for two reasons: attitude and accent. Yes, she’s a pretty woman, but in the way that somebody you work or go to school with is pretty… which is actually another part of her charm. There’s something very real about her brash no-bullshit style, a contrast to the pop princesses to whom she’d otherwise be compared.
And then there’s her voice, and particularly her accent. I’ve never considered myself a sucker for accents the way some people are. But in recent years I’ve noticed that some accents work a bit of magic on me. A slight southern accent can have that effect. Definitely a Scottish accent (as you’ll see later this week). And a working-class British accent… big winner. I could listen to Lily Allen sing all day just to hear her pronunciations.
It’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.
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.
Alex brought this up the other day and I told her I’d put it on my blog, so here I am being true to my word.
It’s funny how some British artists completely mask their accents in song while others sing it like they speak it. Is this a deliberate choice in either direction? Or is it the luck of the draw? And if it is a deliberate choice, in which direction?
In other words, do the non-accented singers (like, say, Bono) go out of their way to sound “American,” perhaps in the interest of U.S. sales? Or do the accented singers (like today’s choice, Lily Allen) play up their natural accents in song for effect?