Album Review: Lily Allen – No Shame

By on Monday, 25th June 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Lily CresswellLily Allen No Shame album cover

After a 4-year wait, Lily Allen released her fourth studio album ‘No Shame’. The album feels very much like an extension of her third album ‘Sheezus’, keeping the upbeat vibe, and manufactured beats that lie under the majority of tracks on both ‘Sheezus’ and ‘No Shame’. However, Allen has clearly matured since her 2014 album, which is clear from the unrelenting emotional theme undoubtedly driven by her very fresh divorce from Sam Cooper.

The album appears to have been split into three sections, opening with songs that present a club vibe, leading onto a few incredibly intimate ballads, then ending with some straight-up catchy pop tunes. These three sections leave the album feeling rather discordant, but if you’re willing to dig through this stylistic confusion, there are some absolute gems. The first six tracks on ‘No Shame’ are the weakest of the whole 14. I can’t help but feel that Allen has tried too hard to appeal to Friday night clubbers by using over-processed, worn-out beats that feel out of place with the emotional content of the song.

The lyrics of the first track ‘Come On Then’ are hard-hitting as Allen sings about the tribulations of fame, an issue that is particularly relevant in 2018, especially from a female artist. The subtle touches upon anxiety, depression and the hardships faced by a female in the spotlight are poignant and frankly, a refreshing change of the usual topics featured in the charts of love and heartbreak. Isolate the lyrics, and the track is doing the topic a great deal of justice. For example, the lyrics “my head can’t always hold itself so high / what if inside I’m, dying / every night I’m crying” directly deal Allen’s suppression of feelings whilst in the public eye. However, together with the overdone beats and synths, the serious issue is lost in a cloud of ‘try-hard’ club music.

Just as all hope was about to be lost, Allen saves the album with three shining diamonds: ‘Family Man’, ‘Apples’ and ‘Three’. These three songs slow the pace of the album right down and provide a well-needed resting point. The relaxed tempo, introduction of acoustic instrumentation and beautifully melodic vocal lines give listeners an intimate connection with Allen. ‘Family Man’ allows for a different narrative of the divorce, presenting a vulnerability reflected in the melancholic piano accompaniment, whilst ‘Three’ brings us back to the issue of fame, this time from the perspective of Allen’s 3-year old. This second section of the album is a real highlight of ‘No Shame’ and exhibits the raw talent of Lily Allen.

The final five tracks return us to a brighter mood, exemplifying influences from ‘Sheezus’ and Allen’s earlier releases. Although there are still remnants of processed beats heard earlier in the album, there is much more of a radio pop vibe. In the best possible way, it is easy to imagine ‘Pushing Up Daisies’ or ‘Cake’ becoming a tragedy of radio overplay, going on to be the most remembered tracks of the album. With these, Allen has really succeeded in living up to her old school hits such as ‘22’.

The video for ‘Lost My Mind’ really captures the aesthetic of the album: quirky, yet emotionally expressive. It opens with the Allen sat in a bathroom, wrapped in a towel, sporting a wet hairdo. The normality of this scene creates the sense that the audience are intruding on Allen’s day-to-day life, reflected in the lyrics’ intimacy. We are then taken to a bedroom where the audience are made to feel like a fly on the wall as we watch her argue with her partner. It then reaches an emotionally climactic end, her hopelessness summed up as Allen is drenched in rain. The video is simple, yet powerful and adds an emotional dimension to ‘Lost My Mind’ not conveyed on record.

Bypass the first six songs, and ‘No Shame’ is an album with much promise. Despite the discouraging start and the somewhat conflicting styles, the album shines a light on a vulnerability that connects us to Allen. The general production by Fryars and Mark Ronson is exceptional, particularly in the punchy pop tunes, elevating the album even in its weaker sections. Overall, this is an album worth getting if only for the beautifully intense emotion of ‘Three’.

8/10

Lily Allen’s fourth album ‘No Shame’ is available now on Parlophone and Regal Records. Catch Allen on her world tour taking place from June to December, with four dates in the UK from the 11th to the 17th of December. For more live date information, visit Lily Allen’s official Web site.

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