Lily Allen, Alright, Still
Ah, summer. The sunny blue … skies. And the warm, the warm, the …. Okay, so I don’t really remember anything about summer. Or blue skies. Or the sun. This admittedly stood in the way of fully enjoying Lily Allen’s unrelentingly summery Alright, Still, which is the sunniest record since … since … Uh, I can’t remember any other sunny records right now. Give me a couple months.
For some reason, Capitol Records decided to delay this CD’s release, despite being a huge hit in Britain upon its release there last July. This, of course, has only upped the expectations for its domestic release. If you’ve heard anything about the hyped-to-death album, you’ve likely heard everything about it – about its light, reggae-inflected sound; about Allen’s lilting, spirited delivery; about the songs that are beyond catchy. All of those rumors are true, as evidenced on the big single “Smile” and the perfect pop confection “LDN.”
That said, there is a surprising amount of drab filler on Alright, Then, such as the inane “Take What You Take,” which sounds like it was unearthed from a 1995 time capsule. (Allen sings “Say what you say, do what you do/Feel what you feel, as long as it’s real,” over a midtempo dance beat. Somewhere, the Spice Girls and the New Radicals are collaborating on a lawsuit). These songs make the record’s middle sag, but this only means either end is held up by pure pop buoyancy. It kicks off with “Smile” and the joyous “LDN”, and closes out with the playful, sibling-ribbing “Alfie” and a blissed-out Mark Ronson-produced remix of “Smile,” which ends the record on a Stax-reverent high.
Though Allen has become the poster child for the New Music Industry - she was signed to English label Regal Records last April mainly because of the songs on her MySpace page - Alright, Then is charmingly old-fashioned. Horns (albeit largely sampled) blare serenades, and Allen’s oft-discussed potty mouth lets loose rarely. Beats are strong, but only to provide Allen with a solid foundation for her sweet melodies.
Alright, Then isn’t quite the pop phenomenon you’ve heard about, but the record’s surrounding hype would have prevented that regardless. Instead, Alright, Then is exactly what you want to hear this time of year. It’s warm, it’s pleasant, it’s everything Minnesota lacks in February.
A word of warning, however: hearing Allen chirp, “Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why/Would I wanna be anywhere else,” as she does on “LDN,” won’t make your sub-zero wait for the bus any warmer. It’ll just make it catchier, which, if you listen hard enough, is almost the same thing.
Labels: Lily Allen