Review Summary: It's Not Me, It's You lives and dies by Lily Allen's charisma. Thankfully she has a lot of it.
Given the chance I would most certainly kidnap Lily Allen. Now I'm not normally one to fawn over sometimes frumpy British girls, but from her third nipple to her well documented stances on drugs and alcohol, I seem to be constantly fascinated by her. I find everything she does inherently adorable. I dunno. The kicker is that beyond her irreverent brattyness there's certainly talent to be found. She's more than witty slang and drunken tirades. Like Prince, she's more than a girl with a pretty face. She's got talent. Katy Perry, if you're listening, please take notes (and/or your shirt off).
This is the part where I lie and say It's Not Me, It's You
picks up where Alright, Still
left off. Moving on. Of course it does trade in ska-tinged, urban flavoured backdrops for a more European, dance-y style, It's Not Me, It's You
still feels like a natural progression from its predecessor.
Lily Allen made a name for herself with the lyrically vengeful yet happy-go-lucky "Smile" and It's Not Me, It's You
continues the trend of songs written to someone rather than about them. The anti-anti gay "Fuck
You" makes specific references to an anonymous person's "tiny mind". When she sings "fuck
you very much" it seems like her words are a bullet with a crosshair. Though it may very well be a personalized generality, it doesn't come off as such. What's particularly interesting about "Fuck
You" is that while it directly bites the Carpenters' "Close To You", it plays out as the total opposite. In "Fuck
You"'s case, birds are not suddenly appearing; if they were, Lily would probably be throwing rocks at them. Of course the track is far from a direct knockoff, it merely speeds "Close to You"'s piano hook up and adds a deliciously gay turbo-bass back beat to it. "Back to the Start" is a lyrically apologetic track that has Lily apologizing to an unknown ex-friend, and while Lily pleads to make bygones into bygones the track still manages to be bouncy and seemingly tailor made for jazzercise.
When her lyrics are simple and cheeky, they work. The aforementioned "Fuck
You" succeeds when Lily delivers quick quips and snappy jabs, but it stumbles when she does too much---why she suddenly calls the song's subject a racist is both confusing and probably unintentional---one of those emotional stumbles that can only be explained with dashes upon dashes of subtext. "Chinese" is almost a consistent lyrical fumble, with Lily dragging on about next-to-nothing before lulling us to sleep with the line "you'll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea, and we'll get a Chinese and watch TV". "Chinese" is utterly irreverent, even for Lily Allen. Of course the track itself is less than stellar, a certain skipper if there ever was one.
Like before, Lily's charisma (and occasional lack-thereof) really propels the album. Lily knows what works. She knows when to be vindictive, mocking and mellowed out. Lily knows when to be introspective (The Fear) and when to be childishly curious (Him). The problem is, the production and overall sound of It's Not Me, It's You doesn't show the same diversity. Lily's sophomore album is, for the most, an album without any real highs and lows. "Chinese" may be dull, but it's not quite bad, and while "22" sounds like an Alright, Still
b-side, for many that's hardly a negative. Beyond that, Greg Kurstin's production is never quite sure of itself. Sure, Lily may know when to be serious and when to be playful, but that doesn't always translate with her accompaniment. Kurstin's production is sometimes snappy (Everyone's At It) and sometimes silly (the wonderful electro-western "Not Fair) but it also sometimes borders on gimmicky (the ridiculous waltz that begins "Never Gonna Happen") and inconsequential (22). Like I said, It's Not Me, It's You
lives and dies by Lily, and while that's how it should be, she could probably use some extra help now and again. That being said, Kurstin's work is occasionally wonderful and seems to be at its best when it's flourishing in retro-Synthy Lauperisms (I Could Say) and bass heavy joggers (Back to the Start, Fuck
You) and if anything it does the trick. He's no Mark Ronson, but he's thankfully not Sam Ronson either.
While it's hardly a pop renaissance, It's Not Me, It's You
is an appropriate follow-up to a debut that peaked not only because of its musical merits but also because of it's cultural catalysts. With the bitchy-Brits trend hopefully on the way out, Lily is relying on her natural charisma and talent and it seems like she'll pull through.