Lily Allen is sassy, assertive, whip smart and unpredictable. She’s also one of the most highly acclaimed singers to emerge from Britain in the past few years. The 23-year-old pop star has remained in the public eye — not only for the artistry of her debut album, Alright, Still (2006), but also for her uncensored opinions on everything from Madonna (“The most overrated person in pop history”) to Courtney Love (“One night with her made me realize why Kurt [Cobain] killed himself”) to Victoria Beckham (“Too skinny…no talent”).
Allen insists that she doesn’t court controversy. “It’s just how I see things,” she purrs innocently when asked why she is so stubbornly honest. “It’s not always the truth — I just say what I believe is the truth,” she clarifies.
While her blunt opinions cause her career minders some grief, they aren’t nearly as provocative as some of her lyrics. On her new album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, Allen laments her post-coital displeasure on the track “The Fear”: “Now I lie here in the wet patch in the middle of the bed / I’m feeling pretty damn hard done by / I’ve spent ages giving head.” How will her (probably former) lover react to such brutal frankness? “The songs that are about people performing badly in bed are based on ex-boyfriends who are too egotistical to consider that the lyrics are actually about them, so I suppose I’m lucky in that sense,” Allen says with a laugh.
That isn’t the only song in which she’s courting controversy. In fact, Allen’s own record company has categorized every song as having “explicit” lyrics. Take the single “Everyone’s At It”: While some listeners might misinterpret it as a pro-drug song — even though it’s a commentary on the pervasiveness of drugs today — Allen says she’s not going to defend or explain her work. “If people want to make their own conclusions, they can — and they will,” she says. “If those people are clever enough to listen to it properly and have a balanced, measured opinion on it, that would be great; if they don’t, that’s their problem.”
Critics and fans alike rave about Allen’s catchy and clever songs, yet she admits to having struggled with the writing on It’s Not Me, It’s You. “If things don’t come easily, or if I’m not immediately good at something, I get irritated and give up,” she confesses. “That’s why I left so many schools when I was younger. But now, when I feel like what I’m doing isn’t good enough, I can’t quit because it’s my job.”
To get over her writer’s block, Allen left the studio to accumulate what she calls “songwriting ammunition.” Some of that “ammunition” is chronicled on her now-infamous MySpace page, which propelled her from an unknown to a genuine phenom with a recording contract in 2006. These same experiences also provide fodder for the British tabloids, which rapaciously write about her life (like her miscarriage last year and the ensuing breakup with boyfriend Ed Simons of The Chemical Brothers), her partying excesses (tumbling out of London nightclubs after a few too many drinks) and those verbal catfights (often via the press) with other celebrities. Now that she’s a more seasoned star, does Allen regret any of her public meltdowns or catty comments?
“Yes! In fact, I’m getting a tattoo on my wrist that says ‘Shut up.’ Perhaps it will remind me to keep my mouth shut when I shouldn’t say certain things,” she says, laughing. “That might make my life easier.”
Allen says that she also tries to avoid reading what people write about her but adds that it’s difficult when she receives text messages from friends asking if she’s okay after they’ve read some salacious tale about her latest antics. “Things are often written about me that are totally blown out of proportion or taken out of context,” she says. “There’s a cartoon version of me out there and a real version of me.” Case in point: the alleged “incident” between Allen and Elton John at the GQ Men of the Year Awards in London last fall. While the two of them stood at the podium, Allen apparently took offence when Elton told her to cut back on her drinking. “F—k off, Elton,” she said. “I’m 40 years younger than you. I have my whole life ahead of me!” The Internet and papers were immediately abuzz with the supposed feud between the two divas.
“To be completely honest, it didn’t happen as it was reported,” insists Allen. “Elton lent me his house in the south of France last summer.
We speak all the time, and we don’t have the kind of relationship where we would have an argument on-stage in front of a thousand people! The two of us were only joking, but it was reported as though it was something else so that some tabloids could sell papers. That doesn’t make it right. My life is
not some sort of fill-in-the-blank story. It really pisses me off when people assume that it is.”
So, in spite of the perks, is fame ultimately worth it? “I’m not going to say it sucks because it pays for my house, feeds my dog and pays for the records I buy,” replies Allen, “but there are downsides to every job that pays well.” One of those drawbacks is the pressure that young celebrities like Allen feel to look a certain way. Although she tells herself it’s irrelevant (“I’m not a model, I’m a singer!”), Allen says she isn’t immune to the harsh criticism that comes her way. “Not many people are told that they are hideously unattractive, ugly and fat!” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of comments on websites that say I’m not pretty enough to be a pop star. When did that become important to the process of making music? I think that is ridiculous! It’s something I’m still trying to deal with, and I can tell you it’s not easy.”
Aside from the press leaving her alone and her new album achieving the same kind of critical and popular success as her first, what else would make Allen truly happy? She pauses for a few seconds to consider her response. “I suppose it would be falling in love with someone and being asked to get married,” she says. Who would have imagined that such a modern, edgy girl would wish for something so traditional and romantic? So, is she in a relationship at the moment? “No, I’m not,” says Allen, “but I’m accepting applications!”
Lily on …
• Her ideal musician to collaborate with “John Lennon.”
• Her fave bands “Blondie, The Ragga Twins, The Streets, Squeeze, T.Rex, Klaxons, Scissor Sisters, The Clash, The Slits and TLC. ”
• Her fave book “The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.” (Her mother, Alison Owen, produced The Other Boleyn Girl and Elizabeth.)
• Leaving music to pursue a career in acting “Not right now because I’m doing my music, but you never know in the future. I might be a really talented actress [stifles a laugh] — but probably not!”
• The most important thing about making love “Reaching orgasm.”
• Mutual orgasm? “No — just me!”
• The Pussycat Dolls being bad role models for young girls “I think they send a terrible message to young women — and young men, who then believe that’s what women are like in real life. It’s such a hideous concept.”
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