Lily Allen
It's Not Me, It's You


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
August 29th, 2010 | 42 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist


Being honest in pop music is a risky business. Lady Gaga knows this--her jams are intentionally impersonal and blandly sexual, whereas any of her “personal” songs (“Again Again,” “Brown Eyes,” “Speechless”) are made to sound that way so any clubgoer can easily skip over them right to “Poker Face”. Kelly Clarkson certainly knows it; if only she had known it earlier she might have been able to avoid creating the soul-baring bomb known as My December and simply kept to having five names on each songwriting credit. Once you put what you actually think out there, instead of boilerplate pop lyrics that can either be construed as “mindless fun” or “biting satire of ‘mindless fun’”, you’re putting yourself out there. And that’s dangerous. Lily Allen takes the challenge, and, as it always is, potential lyrical complaints are all around, especially for nitpickers who don’t like their pop artists outspoken: the materialist satire of “The Fear” is too easy, “Not Fair” is whiny, “Him” is strikingly naive; all flawed in the same way she and everyone else is. And, though these critics may have a point, the fact is that Lily Allen is daringly frank (especially in this day and age), and even if you don’t like the words (which, if you give them more than the skeptical skim, you should), she’s got the tunes to back them up.

Armed with all the money the rogue music pirates who forced her to quote-unquote quit music didn’t manage to steal from her, Allen recruits Greg Kurstin of The Bird and the Bee to dress up her songs in a shiny, immaculate electro-pop sheen that complements her songs perhaps even better than Alright, Still’s ska-inflected production. Fantastic first single “The Fear” is a perfect example of this new direction--the song’s bubbly synths and retro beats perfectly externalize the sort of materialist fantasy the narrator desires to live in (inspirational opening line: “I want to be rich and I want lots of money.”) The song’s lyrics have Allen, through satire, demonstrating how not to live, but also making this delusional lifestyle a tantalizing thing to experience. Just like all great pop singles, “The Fear” is catchy and likable enough without the lyrics, but has a further layer of intrigue with them.

In that sense, It’s Not Me, It’s You is essentially “The Fear” times twelve. Musically, these songs are impeccable pop gold--all twelve of them. And underneath their immaculately-crafted melodies and progressions is pure Lily. Though dressed up in an exquisite get-up, the songs here allow her personality to shine through in full--whether it be the “bitchy” side you probably already knew about (“It’s Not Fair,” “Never Gonna Happen”) or the sensitive side you wished you had heard about earlier (“Who’d Have Known,” “Chinese”). Lily is smart but not too smart to be pinned down as “satirizing” something; scrutinize her and you’ll see she makes slip-ups, but they’re all in good heart. Opener (anti-)drug song “Everyone’s At It” may seem oversimplified, but she’s just trying to protect the kids; “*** You”, to whomever it is directed (George W. Bush seems like a good guess, though the British National Party is another possibility), is, though vicious, just Lily frankly stating her political mind, but in a way so cleverly universal it could be construed as another Boyfriend Hate song--both of these are examples of what Lily does best: baring her human soul via super-human songcrafting.

By chance, the catchiest of a dozen super-catchy songs is indeed a Boyfriend Hate song: a cleverly seething one called “Never Gonna Happen”. Production-wise, the song is somewhat of an anomaly, a sort of throwback to Alright, Still that swaggers along not on synths or drumbeats but, of all things, an accordion. Still, instead of feeling out of place, the song gets by on pure charm and humor, as well as seemingly infinite replay value. Another musical anomaly, the country-inflected “Not Fair”, is simply hilarious; a slightly malicious criticism of a boyfriend who just can’t seem to please Lily in bed--even though he’s a nice guy and all.

However, these spiteful diss tracks--as good as they both are--are not the ones that play to her strengths the most. That would be tracks like “Who’d Have Known”--ones that show that, sometimes, she can approach the subjects she knows best (young love, in this case) with just the right amount of brevity and restraint. “Who’d Have Known” carefully tells a story of unsure love, from filling up conversations with talk about the weather, to unexpected kisses, to offhandedly being referred to as “baby”--plus, it has one of those choruses (legally sampled from Take That or not); the one that instantly gets added into the “classic melody” vault once you hear it. And this brings us back to where we were with “The Fear”. When each song is no-questions-asked catchy, you know you’ve got an honest pop album on your hands. When the one that manages to peek above the rest is not the ones made out of spite or the “satires” but the ones where you secretly hope it turns out to be True Love, you know you’ve got an honest lyrical one. With It’s Not Me, It’s You, Lily Allen has managed to make both.



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user ratings (252)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
pizzamachine (3)
Floccinaucinihilipilification aside, this is an alright album....

Tyler Munro EMERITUS (3.5)
It's Not Me, It's You lives and dies by Lily Allen's charisma. Thankfully she has a lot of it....

David James Young (4)
One small step for pop music = one giant leap for Lily Allen....

Jake C. Taylor (4.5)
Lily drops the sneakers and bicycle, crowns herself in pink satin on her mature typeface ‘L’ and...

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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 29th 2010


15053 Comments


felt like a long time since i reviewed so i did this

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 29th 2010


16576 Comments


lily allen is good. but not that good.

review is good. ... yeah, it's good. pos.

Digging: Taylor Swift - 1989

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
August 29th 2010


3775 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Huh. I actually dropped my rating for this yesterday, I realized once the novelty of it wears off the beats are pretty awful. Tyler was right when he said the only thing that really saved this was Lily's voice and charisma, but it doesn't carry it for me.

Digging: The Flaming Lips - With A Little Help From My Fwends

AtavanHalen
August 29th 2010


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually love the beats on this, Kurstin is the man

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 29th 2010


15053 Comments


luv the beats

morrissey
Moderator
August 30th 2010


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Great review, and you hit the nail on the head in your opening paragraphs re honesty in pop music. Then again, you can have your cake and eat it too; someone like Ke$ha can be both honest (though not particularly insightful) and bumping.

I guess I just blatantly disagree with you about the quality of this album. I agree that when Lily is at her best, her lyrics are clever and seem both effortless and perfectly crafted, the music is appealing if not revolutionary, and her melodies are simple but infectious. Here, she might get one of three but mostly falls short on all counts.

I admired Lily Allen on her debut as someone who fit so seamlessly into our pop world but brought a self-awareness and wit completely lacking from American pop stars. I think she still has those qualities but her attempts to integrate them into ridiculously clever pop songs just hasn't happened this time round. She's hit all the required marks yet fails to excel in any way.

I don't think you'll consider this a 4.5 in two years time.


mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

when i first heard not fair i think i listened to it like 50 times in a row

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


15053 Comments


morrissey: who knows, this grew on me from ~3.5 to where it is now in a year's time--granted, this
was after i took basically a year-long break from ever hearing it again

but hey, this is one of my favorite quote-unquote pop records of its decade and i really like every
song

re yr ke$ha statement, though:

"She has urged critics not to take her lyrics seriously; such as in "Tik Tok", where she has been
criticized for referencing brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey. She explained
that, "Everyone's really offended by that. But come on, brushing your teeth with Jack Daniel's: what
girl does that? People are like, 'Do you really advocate brushing your teeth with bourbon?' I'm
like, 'Yes, actually, I do, every day, for everybody. Especially eight year olds.' I mean, what are
you talking about? Of course I don't. Come on.""

this actually casts her lack of "honesty" in a positive light because she approaches her dumb lyrics
smartly, but you can see, well, the lyrics are a joke.

edit: i luv that morrissey comes back and im basically the first person S!he interacts with

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

morrissey is 100% woman

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


28704 Comments


my friend robertson likes this

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


15053 Comments


o shit i apologize

edit: id also like to clarify that im not dissin on the gaga in the 1st para; love her for what she is

morrissey
Moderator
August 30th 2010


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

The funniest part is if Ke$ha had lyrics about brushing her teeth with Colgate I would roll my eyes at the inauthenticity. But Jack? I buy it. I'm just saying, if every one of her songs was about clubbing and/or drinking I would consider it honest. Honesty doesn't have to be about heartache and eating disorders, having fun and letting loose is part of life too.

Also I say all this stuff about the record but I've had "Not Fair" in my head for two days straight, so who knows. For me the biggest thing is that I was really excited by her debut. There is no one else on pop radio who sounds like her or writes like her, and she's so comparatively young that her potential seemed boundless as long as her energy and cynicism kept up. This record just doesn't have me excited about the future the way Alright, Still did.

"edit: i luv that morrissey comes back and im basically the first person he interacts with"
you're a great gal what can I say

Also I'm reading your Selena Gomez review as well speak and holy shit but I'll comment there

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


15053 Comments


"The funniest part is if Ke$ha had lyrics about brushing her teeth with Colgate I would roll my eyes at the inauthenticity. But Jack? I buy it."

wait but the whole quote was her saying it's a joke (or inauthentic, or whatever)--it's not like i have qualms with that and it "works" for her music (though i really do not like her at all so it doesnt really "work" for me but REGARDLESS)--it falls under the "dumb party lyrics and/or 'satire' of dumb party lyrics" umbrella pretty squarely (or should i say circlely LOLLLLLL)

i guess you could say people can sing about going to parties and getting smashed authentically, yeah (which is not what kesha is doing, as that quote, i think, explains?) but i guess what i meant by honest was more like...your feelings on stuff? i know now that my point could have been construed as "anything that's not serious is inauthentic" when it's more like "most pop artists dont like to talk about their feelings or opinions when it's easier just to talk about partying it up"--which is fine, my point was not that it's negative as much as it's a gamble to do otherwise

that was unnecessarily long but maybe that cleared something up maybe not



morrissey
Moderator
August 30th 2010


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I get that she wasn't being serious with her lyrics to Tik Tok. My point is that I would believe she was serious if she didn't debunk it as not. Whereas if she, Ke$ha particularly, started writing about loss and mourning and Tibet (maybe she does, I haven't heard Animal), it would seem inauthentic and not honest. My simple poorly made point was that honesty doesn't have to come in the form of emotionally revelatory material - dumb party lyrics/events can be honest and are probably more honest/occupy more of our time/energy than crying about whatever it is we ladies cry about.

Taking it back to Lily, what was appealing was that she was honest about both sides of the coin - she's honest about being sensitive and vulnerable but also about being a superficial catty bitch who likes to drink and screw. She can sing about her grandmother or an inadequate bedmate and I don't doubt the words come from her pen. Britney Spears sings a song like "Not Yet a Woman" as if it's supposed to meaningful trace the path from adolescence to maturity from Britney's perspective yet it's writing by a balding Swede (or Butch Walker probably). I'm not knocking Britney of course but Lily is just something entirely different. I don't remember what my point was.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

morrissey idk if you know this but we don't actually discuss music anymore on this site so i'm going to have to ask you to leave

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


15053 Comments


agreed (edit: at morrissey)

basically what im saying is that being lyrically "honest" is a risky choice simply because 9/10 times
it comes off as way too deliberate and a way to appear "mature" (this what you're saying would happen
if ke$ha started getting "touching" on us: i agree)--i think lily pulls it off here, a feat on its own
but also made better by the catchy hooks and (imo) immaculate production

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


15053 Comments


quotation marks

morrissey
Moderator
August 30th 2010


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

""most pop artists dont like to talk about their feelings or opinions when it's easier just to talk about partying it up"--which is fine, my point was not that it's negative as much as it's a gamble to do otherwise"

In this case I agree with you. Probably because most artists can't pull this stuff off well - to bring up Britney again, anyone remember "Dear Diary"? Labels don't want to take the risk because with too many pop stars, emotional is boring and languid and self-indulgent as fuck. Or angry and pre-menstrual and shrill. Lily doesn't do that and that is why we like Lily.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


15053 Comments


i also think she strikes a nice balance between Lily the "Bitch" and stuff like "who'd have known" and
"chinese" and how both come off as equally honest and open imo

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2010


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

22 migfht be the best song



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