Just over a decade ago, when I was still paying attention, a pair of albums appeared from nowhere that seemed to suggest two new exciting, individual and idiosyncratic voices had arrived to give a much-needed kick up the arse to an increasingly stale music scene. Eleven years later, one of those voices has been silenced and the other appears to spend most of her time digging an online hole that grows deeper with each passing day. I’m talking, of course, about Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen.
Whereas ‘Back To Black’ was an unexpectedly dark diversion into classic soul that brilliantly scuppered Winehouse’s potential membership of the Radio 2 Easy Listening Jazz Club alongside the likes of Jamie Cullum, ‘Alright, Still’ was a cut-and-paste mosaic of vintage Ska and Reggae shot through with the kind of original lyrical wit sorely lacking from the vapid nursery rhymes of most female pop stars. Indeed, Allen was compared more to The Streets’ Mike Skinner than she was to the male-controlled marionettes or winsome singer-songwriters sharing the charts with her; image-wise, she also offered a refreshing alternative to the lap-dancer look that had become obligatory for so many of her contemporaries.
Allen quickly developed a reputation for a sharp tongue, and it was perhaps inevitable that music alone wouldn’t be enough of an outlet when it came to her evident talent for opening her mouth and not merely singing. After the initial praise and success that her debut album and its accompanying singles (particularly her chart-topping debut, ‘Smile’) brought, Allen then took a disappointing albeit prophetic turn by temporarily becoming a chat-show host on the frankly crap BBC3 series, ‘Lily Allen and Friends’; it looked as if she was in danger of turning into the middle-aged Cilla Black thirty years too early.
However, in 2008 she returned to the studio and produced her second album, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’, a far slicker musical outing than her first. Although her lyrics retained their ability to challenge conservative pop conventions, there were moments, such as the anti-Dubya ‘Fuck You’, when she seemed to be settling for complacent name-calling. The album’s lead single, ‘The Fear’, was a prescient, barbed comment on celebrity culture, though she simultaneously appeared to be part of what she was attacking.
Music has regularly taken a periodical backseat in her career, often due to unhappy personal experiences such as a miscarriage, a stillbirth and being pursued by a stalker for seven years, something that eventually climaxed with a conviction, despite the inaction of the Met. Having led the way by utilising nascent social media (particularly MySpace) to build a fan-base before she launched her professional recording career, Allen was a natural Twitter user from the off, and it currently seems the Twittersphere is the location into which Lily Allen appears to divert the majority of her energy.
At one time, the music press would serve as the mouthpiece for rent-a-quote musicians, with everyone from John Lennon and John Lydon to Morrissey and Noel Gallagher using it to issue statements about their fellow performers and the world in general, sparking debate and division amongst music fans. Now that the music press no longer exists, social media fulfils the same function for their outspoken successors, and Lily Allen has continued to use it while her career seems to be undergoing yet another Sabbatical.
Like many famous faces in the heated post-Brexit climate, Lily Allen’s opinions on Twitter have dragged her into endless online arguments of the kind even unlikely agitators such as chairperson of the ‘Harry Potter’ industry, JK Rowling, and ex-footballer and crisp salesman Gary Lineker have set themselves up for over the past few months. She was notably vocal with regards to the migrant crisis when it occupied the headlines last year and now she is under-fire again following her lazy demonisation of Britain’s elderly population, adopting the same petulant attitude as another hereditary celebrity, Giles Coren. According to Lily Allen – and I quote – ‘Can’t you see this country is being taken over by hate extremist pensioners?’ I can’t say I’d noticed myself, but the images evoked by the prospect seem oddly reminiscent of Python’s ‘Hell’s Grannies’ sketch.
Apparently, Allen posted a poll asking which social demographic posed the greater threat to the UK – Muslims or the aforementioned senile delinquents – a blatantly obvious own-goal gift to serial trolls and Twitter mischief-makers; when the results of said poll didn’t go the way she anticipated, Allen momentarily stormed off Twitter in a huff. She hired a friend to take over in her absence and attend to ‘a hate blocking spree’, which basically means deleting anyone who disagrees with or questions our Lily’s pronouncements. The sensible option would surely have been to simply give Twitter a rest for a bit, but it would appear an online presence is today required 24/7 or everyone assumes you’re dead.
Twitter to me is the same as YouTube or Facebook; I use it as a PR platform for my work. I’ve never once used it to air an opinion on anything that can’t be expressed in a blog or a video. Lily Allen is more than capable of making her feelings felt via the medium of music; that she is choosing to spurn what she does best in favour of locking horns with others who also can’t live outside of cyberspace is surrendering to an argument you can never win. These people do it for a living, Lily; you don’t. They’ve got nothing else going on in their lives; you have. Why not capitalise on that and rise above the pit instead of languishing in it? Otherwise, there’s little to distinguish them from you.
© The Editor