The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Beards, Blazers & Glasses Or Lily Allen: The British Pink

The case of Lily Allen wouldn't be nearly as interesting if not for the response that she's elicited throughout the Internet. Think about it. Sure, she's relatively cute, has a nice voice and is blessed with the abilility to write funny slice-of-life songs about growing up wealthy, privileged and attractive in London. But her music isn't exactly the stuff to soundtrack the revolution. It's more music to listen to when you're in the mood for something light, frothy and relatively painless. I.E. the ideal summer music.But somehow at some point, like many of the recent Internet sensations, Lily Allen became a cause. You were either with her or against her. Blogs covered each one of her moves with the laser-eyed focus of a talented paparazzi. Each mixtape or B-side that Lily dropped was treated by bloggers like heavily sampled manna from heaven

Naturally, a backlash developed, with people claiming that Allen was "untalented and overrated" to personal attacks calling her a "stupid cunt." This schism wasn't relegated to the blogosphere as Pitchfork and Stylus perfectly illustrated the Lilly Allen Paradox, as Pitchfork called Allen's debut Alright Still, "fantastic" and gave her a very solid 8.3 rating. Meanwhile, Stylus took out the hatchet and started hacking away at Allen, trashing her mercilessly with a D rating and calling her "hurtful" "contemptuous" and the worst insult of all, comparing her lyrics to that of Incubus.

What both sides failed to remember is that Lily Allen isn't any kind of savior. She's a 21-year old POP STAR. From England. If anything, she's the British Pink: smarter and edgier than your average pop star but not nearly as cute. And by virtue of her being from England, Allen seems rather intelligent whereas the American Pink remains brighter than Britney yet still somehow dumber than dirt. Ultimately, I suspect that Allen is so galvanizing to the mostly male blogosphere for two things: either she reminds bloggers of a bitchy and spoiled ex-girlfriend that they once had who they now hate OR she makes bloggers wish that she was their girlfriend. Pretty simple really.

Lily Allen: A 40 Oz. To Freedom is the Only Chance She Has to Feel Good When She Feels Bad
That being said, with her debut, Alright Still, Allen has established herself as the most interesting pop star to debut in this millenium. I should probably qualify that statement with the caveat that I find her the only remotely interesting pop star to debut in the last six years, other than Rihanna, who I find interesting for different ways that shouldn't be discussed on a family friendly website such as this.

It was this curiousity that brought me out to the Troubadour last Saturday night to see Allen's third United States performance, following one in San Francisco and a New York show that brought mixed reviews. As Idolator wrote of the NYC bloggers reaction, the word "expectations couldn't help but come up." But to be completely honest, I'm not sure why it would. After all, Allen is a pop star, she's not My Morning Jacket, nor is she trying to be.

In that vein, Liily Allen live was exactly what I expected to see from her album: a precocious, charismatic and obviously entitled pop star from England. A pop star with enough talent to get the crowd moving for 45 minutes (myself excluded: I don't move, I sulk) and keep the mood buoyant. Yet it was also this sense of entitlement that makes Allen a less than fully dynamic performer, one content to let her god-given talent take her as far as it will take her. She's like the Ken Griffey Jr. of pop music. She's not going to slide headfirst into second base, but she has enough ability to better her peers. And like Griffey, I'm skeptical about her prospects for the duration of an entire career.

Lily Allen at the Troubadour: Dressed For a Brent Bolthouse Club (Oh Yeah and That Whole Music Thing Too)
Backed by a DJ, a keyboardist, a bassist and a horn section, Allen's show started with a true-to-the album rendition of her hit single "LDN." Two things immediately struck me: 1) she was prettier than I'd expected and 2) her voice was much better than I'd imagined. We're not talking Whitney Houston territory or anything, but she isn't an auto-tune wonder either. Furthermore, Allen possesses an unteachable sense of rhythm. When her lyrics veered into hip-hop territory, she had a basic command of the mic and some rudimentary form of skills. Again, she's not Lauryn Hill, but she's better than most.

From there, the set went into "Nan, You're a Window Shopper," her very funny re-working of 50 Cent's "Window Shopper." Then the energy declined a bit with the mediocre"Shame for You," after which Allen engaged in stage banter with the crowd about how amazed she was that even though Capitol refused to release her album until next year, the crowd knew all of her lyrics.

Perhaps, this was the quintessential Lily Allen moment of the evening. Rather than thank the crowd for their dedication and support, she treated it as if their support was a given. Like all rich girls that grow up in the city, there is little wonder left for Lily Allen, and it shows. This is why many people resent Allen: her veering on smug-sense of entitlement, the vague sense that everything will always be fabulous for her. After all, she's Lily Allen, she's the daughter of a famous person. Of course, it will.

Lily Allen: Better Than Lily Tomlin, Tiger Lilly, and Lily Pads

Maybe its the fact that I grew up around a thousand less-talented girls just like Lily Allen and I'm used to the sense of entitlement that the children of the rich have, but for some reason it doesn't bother me. Love her or hate her, Allen really doesn't care all that much and in a way it's refreshing in a world of pop stars desperate to please everyone around them.

The short was set, just 40 minutes. She even acknowledged the fact that she'd got in trouble in NY and San Francisco for playing such a short setlist. After "Shame For You," Allen ran through the Professor Longhair sampling of "Knock Em Out," the treacly "Littlest Things," the up-tempo and pleasant "Friday Night" and the brainlessly blissful "Smile." For an encore, Allen performed "Everything's Just Wonderful" and "Alfie" her song for her pothead brother.

All in all, Allen displayed why she's neither a savior nor worthy of being scorned. She's just a good singer who's a bit smarter than your average pop star and actually writing pretty good but not great lyrics. It's the kind of music that you'd be happy to hear coming out of your little sister's room, rather than Fall Out Boy, Christina Aguilera or Justin Timberlake (the horror).

Ultimately, the concert was like Allen's album, fiercely strong in parts, not-so-strong in others. Neither will probably make any top 20 list that I compile for the year, but both are pleasant experiences. In Stylus' Alright Still review, the writer calls Lily Allen "pop music for people who don't like pop music." If that's the case than so be it. Lilly Allen isn't about to surpass Spoon, Wilco or My Morning Jacket as my favorite musician anytime soon. But if every pop star could have the intelligence and talent of Lily Allen, I can't say that I'd complain either.

Lily Allen: "Nan, You're A Window Shopper" (right-click, save as)

Lily Allen: "Oh My God" (right-click, save-as)


At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Woodland Bear said...

Great blog! I love Lily Allen myself, but can never be quite sure as to why. It's a good thing I can understand your humour (sorry, American - humor) as well, because anywhere else you wouldn't find the words 'a family-friendly website such as this' and 'cunt' on the same page. Unless it was a really warped family...

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Nate said...

Dude I wanna bone this girl bad. You know how I get about hooking up with spoiled rich white girls from two parent homes that like to drink 40s...

And I know where you were going with the Rhianna comment. I feel the same way...

Lastly, Choi is going to kill you with your knocks of Incubus...

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Duke said...

the reaction to artists like her and the hold steady from the indie community is what confuses me most. i think both artists are completely harmless and should be accepted for what they are. i don't understand the praise lavished on them. i guess hyperbole and rock writing has been going on forever - it shouldn't surprise me.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Duke said...

and kudos for not being a starf---er. have you read some of the other reviews of the show?

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Thanks Woodland...Im not as dry as the Brits...what can I say? My humor is very over the top American. Though if there ever was a warped family of readers I would hope they would be drawn to these weird site.

Nate: It's on. I think she's your type down. If only she were Jewish it's d be a lock. Though I think one of us may need to get famous. When you run the NBA, she'll be putty in your hands.

Duke-I actually haven't read any of the reviews except Jax'. I guess a bunch of celebs were there. Generally, that means an act has jumped the shark. If Gwen Stefani's at a show I don't want to be. This is why I like Spaceland. No celebs will trek that far east.

We're gonna' have to agree to disagree about the Hold Steady. I generally agree with you about 99.9 percent but this is the one exception. You're just gonna' need to see them live to make that decision. They might be the best live band in the world. I saw them last night. They're on a rarified level right now.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Duke said...

do you remember the grifters? the reaction to the hold steady and everything being written about them totally reminds me of the grifters circa 1994. an above average classic rock inspired band that college students adore. i probably do need to see them live before i dismiss them.

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous silawe said...

I pretty much only read blogs written by you, Duke and Julie Powell so I never know what the hype is. I will say this, Lily Allen is on the Itunes here at the store and it came on after I was listening to some other L record. I liked it, it's cute. However, when I put it on the next week I got bored with it pretty fast. My biggest regret is that I had a ticket for the show and I had the label release it. I should have sold it and gone to Disneyland.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger amphimacer said...

About the "smarter" thing. Did it ever occur to you that the reason British people sometimes seem smarter is that the education system is (a little) less fucked up? As an example, what I studied in junior high school (grade 7 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and grades 8 & 9 in University City, Missouri -- a suburb of St. Louis): In grade 7, we studied American history. In grade 8, we studied American history. In grade 9, we studied "Civics," which turned out to be the study of documents like the U.S. Constitution and its changes over time, through changes in interpretation and amendments. Do you suppose that studying European history, World history, South American history, or Asian history might have broadened our understanding of the U.S.'s history? Yes, I think so. In no other country is there such an adamant and obsessive focus on oneself. It's not just sick, it makes American students seem stupid, when in fact Americans are just as smart as anybody else. When I came back to Canada after that, I discovered that we were taught Canadian history one year, then American history the next, then European history, British history, World history, and encouraged to do projects which compared our history and system of government to those of other countries. Fix the education system, America. Be smart.

At 7:07 AM, Blogger Dave said...

y'know, i wrote a whole review about the whole Lily Allen/attractiveness to hipsters thing, but basically i just think she writes really great, inventive songs.

great blog, dude. thanks for the link the other day.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The stylus reviewer's actually my boyfriend, and I'm pretty certain he doesn't want to bone L. Allen! I think it's more that she's from a very priviledged background, and while that in itself isn't a cause for vitriol, someone who's only been able to make music so young because of the luxury of parental wealth can hardly be a voice of yer average British girl, I think. The music isn't bad, but I've heard far better - The Long Blondes, for one, sum up being 19, young and British ar better than smug rhymes for Tesco.

Plus she's really quite slappable.

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I agree with your pts and by the way, Dom is a helluva writer even if I disagree ocasionally. I would've mentioned how it was the best review I've ever read that I completely disagreed with, but I don't want to seem like a stylus homer or anything.
But for sure, she isn't the voice of british teens because of that entitlement. I just think the songs are catchy and well-written for pure pop. That's all. Thanks for the comment.Ill give that Long Blondes CD another spin. I haven't really paid it enough attention methinks.

At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you know she came from such a priveleged background ? I've known Lily for years , not as a friend , just around the ways .

Actually she is one of 8 children , on her dad's side . And he's not rich at all . She left home when she was 16 , worked in bars restaurants , while visiting her brother in jail ( for possesion of drugs with intent to supply , and GBH ) and trying to help support his 2 , now 3 children . She had money in her later teens and that didn't come from her parents but only because she sued Time Warner AOL , for royally fucking her over on her first deal . That enabled her to give up work and concentrate on said album Alright , Still .

She has struggled more than most people , I have met , and has an incredible drive .

And why can she not be a voice of her generation , Joe Strummer , Mick Jagger anyone?


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