Music

Lily Allen Takes a Reflective Turn on 'No Shame'

On No Shame, the 33-year-old Lily Allen accomplishes that personal revelation and introspection many artists don't accomplish until their mid-to-late 40s.

No Shame
Lily Allen

Parlophone

8 June 2018

Occasionally it's the highs that inspire us to write songs, but even more often it's the lows, the anxieties, the deep valleys of our journey that produce the deepest emotions. England's Lily Allen has never shied away from embracing reality and promoting true expression. However, Allen's honesty in the past has often been pointed toward outward observation rather than deep self-reflection, as she says in this interview. But on 2018's No Shame, an album three years in the making, the 33-year-old Allen accomplishes that personal revelation and introspection many artists don't accomplish until their mid-to-late 40s.

Even at 33, Allen has had a lot to reflect on from suffering both a miscarriage and stillbirth to being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to going through a divorce which just finalized this month. Being able to discuss those tragedies with honesty and grace and "no shame" requires incredible strength, especially when other unimportant voices love to chime in with their opinions on celebrities' personal lives. "I'm a bad mother / I'm a bad wife / You saw it on the socials / You read it online," begins the pre-chorus of album opener "Come on Then", as Allen teeters the line between giving into anxiety and being able to reject it.

Things get more personal on "Family Man", the first song written for the album and a ballad that brings to mind early 2000s jazz and R&B-infused balladry. Allen's self-deprecating titles of "young and stupid", "wild and ruthless", "selfish", "tired", and "helpless" are heartbreaking as she pleads "Baby, don't leave me / I'm just doing what I can / To get by." "Apples" again recounts the leadup to Allen's divorce from Sam Cooper over a lone staccato guitar performance as she concludes, "Now I'm exactly where I didn't want to be / I'm just like mummy and daddy / I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Songs about divorce are hard enough, but Allen really gets the tears rolling on "Three", written from the perspective of her children whom she feels she has neglected with her busy touring schedule and life in the spotlight. It's written with a childlike innocence and level of understanding that work to create the best moments on the album, as her children deal with the (in their eyes) hypocrisy of saying "I love you" and then leaving them for long periods of time.

While these sober moments are perhaps the most impactful on the album, Allen connects with her dreamy voice on less heart-wrenching tracks. The sweet vocals and minimalistic, low-key production are never a full-on party on No Shame, but there's enough infusion of dancehall, reggae, grime, and R&B stylings to let loose. That is, if you're able to let loose ironically while still reflecting on all the hardships life presents. "Your Choice" featuring Nigerian singer Burna Boy offers the feeling of piña coladas and light waves breaking on the shore with its tropical instrumentation and "Tide Is High"-like melodies. But still Allen can't help but reflect on her divorce: "If you really wanna go, that's fine / That's your choice, not mine."

Allen closes the album on perhaps its most positive note over light R&B beats and finger snaps as she speaks to herself as much as her audience: "There's some light / Think you need it / You look so god damn defeated / Why'd you feel so cheated / Best believe it / Have your cake and eat it." In the midst of constant scrutiny, whether from others or yourself, it's imperative to remember to "treat yourself", Allen seems to be saying. And after the difficult task of reflection and therapeutic songwriting she achieved on this album, I'd say the woman deserves her cake.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.

Music

2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.

Music

Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez

Music

Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.

Music

"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.

Music

The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.

Film

Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.

Film

The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Books

'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.

Music

2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.

Books

'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.

Music

Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.