Andy McCluskey is the singer-bassist in the pioneering British electronic pop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, also known as OMD. Their song “Enola Gay” is a synth-pop classic, and “If You Leave,” from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, hit #4 in the U.S. in 1986. Their latest album is English Electric. McCluskey also co-wrote songs for Atomic Kitten, who scored a #1 UK hit in 2001 with “Whole Again.” You can follow OMD on Twitter here and on Facebookhere.
Lily Allen writes tunes. The currency of popular music, regardless of style and genre, is tunes. Lily writes good tunes.
Lily Allen has a distinctive voice. She does not have a broad range: no intimate melancholic whisper nor searing melodramatic anguish. Lily has a good voice.
Lily Allen writes lyrics. They are confessional, confrontational, and biographical. Lily writes good lyrics.
On her new album Sheezus she presents her usual fierce, observational words, adding a few odes of love to her husband and her joy at making love with him. She usually sings these words to a very strong tune. She has to — her voice has only one dimension. Her singing, however, works perfectly for the delivery of carefully constructed words applied to a great tune. I am delighted that she just keeps doing what she is best at. Mariah and Whitney spawned thousands of wannabe divas who torture their vocal chords (and the listener’s ears) whether they have a tune to sing or not. I am much happier with a great tune sung by an artist who stays within the essential parameters demanded by the recording. Thank you, Lily.
I will forgive her for the heavy use of Auto-Tune on “Hard Out Here” and “Close Your Eyes,” as I assume that it is intended to heighten the pastiche. However, I struggle with some of the clichéd American r&b-style sexual euphemisms in the latter song. I am sure that Lily knows why she chose these words, but I fail to ascertain upon which side of irony and sincerity they are intended to fall. Perhaps both. Perhaps Lily is attempting to reclaim pornography for women. Perhaps I’m just of a generation uncomfortable with explicitly sexual lyrics. One thing is certain: she likes having sex with her husband. Oh, and she writes great tunes.
She tweets a lot. Recently, she attempted to deflect criticism of some singles from Sheezus for being “lightweight” by blaming her record label for choosing them. I didn’t know that pop stars could still get away with that one! Nice try, Lily. Artists are not the most objective critics of their own music, especially when they have just delivered an album. I wonder if she is happy with “Hard Out There” for its determined look at female exploitation in pop, and perhaps less comfortable with “Air Balloon” and “Our Time.” She may come to realise that, for all its worthy lyrics, “Hard Out There” is not one of her truly great tunes, whereas “Air Balloon” is one of her finest, and “Our Time” is completely majestic, possessing one of the best choruses I have heard in years. The delivery of her voice at its standard constant intensity against the increasingly lush, swimming keyboards throughout the song’s finale creates a searing tension. It paralyses me with its fragile beauty. A truly gorgeous hairs-on-the-back-of-neck sensation! Thank you, Lily.
At a time when many female pop stars seem compelled to compete in the “less is more” battle — to gain maximum exposure by exposing the maximum — Lily is a necessary antidote to all the simpering carnal acquiescence. She delivers songs tackling the issue with videos parodying the genre. She is also becoming the knowing older sister who has been and seen the “ladette” lifestyle and has the songs to prove it. On this, her third album, she is allowed one song tilting at her return to the music business. The title track “Sheezus” is a knowing take on her reemergence into the “ring” and bold in its reference to other female singers and monthly period cycles (which she rhymes with “disciples”). All done on tidy 808-style drums, crawling sub-bass and tight vocal samples. This track is genius, and a killer tune.
Media exploitation ensures that we never know if music artists are quite what they appear to be. Is that part of the appeal? Only Lily and those around her know the truth about the early MySpace viral explosion, her decision to “retire” aged 23, and the reason for the cover version of “Somewhere Only We Know” for a Christmas TV commercial that she insists netted her only £8,000. She creates her own PR. I hope that Lily Allen believes her own PR; it is much easier when artists do believe their own PR. It avoids constructing messy denial or explanation for being buried in the shit that they have to endure if they attempt to do anything that frightens record labels. You know record labels? Those corporations that artists and audiences love to hate! If Lily Allen believes her PR then good for her and I don’t care. Remember: she writes fantastic tunes.
Everything — well, almost everything — is forgiven if you write tunes!
It’s entirely legitimate to create variations on your own distinctive theme, especially when each work is a masterpiece. To my ears, there are at least six masterpieces on this album. That is an excellent score.
Lily Allen is one of the best top-line melody writers of the twenty-first century!
Lily Allen writes really, really wonderful tunes. Thank you, Lily!!!