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Album review: Lily Allen, 'Sheezus'

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May 08, 2014|By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | RedEye Sound Board

*1/2 (out of 4)

The Internet outrage machine, as well as publications like the New York Post and the Atlantic that are feverishly debating whether Lily Allen's unjustly taking shots at pop icons, seems to have forgotten that the British singer's trademark was always stirring [bleep] up. It's not entirely surprising that Allen titled her first album in five years "Sheezus," which is no more or less attention-seeking than titling an album "Yeezus." That doesn't mean she can't or shouldn't be criticized; Allen deserved the negative reaction to her video for "Hard Out Here," in which she made a bad attempt to lampoon stereotypical rap videos. Yet when you sort through the abundance of click-seeking noise and actually listen to "Sheezus," you'll wonder if it's all much ado about very little.

As Allen questions pop stardom, the album's production constantly resembles that of the other pop stars dominating airwaves. Lyrically, her trademark wit now resorts to cliches like the "Let's have fun because we'll be dead one day" song ("Our Time") and a "Life has changed now that I'm older, but I'm cool with it!" jam ("Life For Me"). Throughout the record, the over-reliance on Auto-Tune nearly reaches levels of "Believe"-era Cher.

Catapulted from MySpace phenomenon to breakout pop star in 2006 because of her ability to keep it real (give another listen to her almost-literally cutting men down to size throughout "Alright, Still"), Allen's razor-sharp perspective has been dulled to the point that it can't even cut butter. It's as if "Sheezus" features two different Lily Allens: 1. The world-conquering feminist who doesn't suffer fools gladly and is willing to say the things that no one else will and 2. The self-conscious person using venom and irony to support half-baked takes on topics like equality and pop culture that sound great in theory but lack a tangible foundation.

At times Allen wants to scoff at the cool kids who vamp for the world ("Insincerely Yours"); other times she's begging us to pay attention to her ("Sheezus"), not her more famous contemporaries. We get a valid, effectively direct critique of online behavior ("URL Badman"), then a whiny gripe about people not taking her seriously because her parents may or may not have had money when she was growing up ("Silver Spoon.") The back and forth is annoying as contradictions slide into an inability to distinguish between irony and sincerity.

Allen's attempted points about empty celebrity worship and misogyny are worthwhile, but she articulates them terribly. If you don't care what people say about famous folks, isn't it hypocritical to wax poetic about that topic on a major label-produced track? Sheezus should first form a solid point, blog that nonsense and save the rest of us an hour.

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