Lily Allen has always been difficult to pigeonhole. Back when she first started making an impression with Alright, Still in the mid-to-late noughties, her doll-like appearance was coupled with a furious voice and snarling lyricism, signposting her as a different breed entirely from the Britney's and Christina's she was sharing the airwaves with. Her third album Sheezus - released after a five year hiatus - sees Allen downgrade significantly, as she trades in her once forthright voice for pointless piggybacking on the latest pop culture trends.
Other than to find the occasional clumsy rhyming scheme for references of Kanye, Beyonce, Vice, Tyler, The Creator, and presumably whatever else popped up in her Twitter feed while she was scribbling down lyrics, there isn't anything of note going on on Sheezus. The record contains far too many nods and winks and, mired in self-referential bullshit, eventually collapses under the weight of its own nonsense somewhere around track #8.
'Sheezus', the title track, is an example of the tawdriness you can find throughout the entire record. "Periods" she sings vacuously, apparently directed at a music industry which she sees as pitting young females against each other. "We all get periods. Once a month, yeah? That's what the theory is". A noble gesture too muddled in delivery, you sense that Allen is trying to make grand statements throughout but amid all the pop culture references, she doesn't do a good enough job of disguising the fact that she's really got nothing of note to say.
Conceptually speaking, Sheezus was designed as a counter-balance to the Kanye's, Beyonce's and Jay-Z's of this world but what it fails to address is the genuine cultural merit that those artists have achieved. Say what you will about rock n' roll hubris, privilege and excess (and she does - at length), Sheezus is a reactionary record not containing one original thought throughout revealing Lily Allen to be exactly the sort of figure she's trying to parody here. This has all the markings of someone who almost left music to become a florist.
Review by John Balfe