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London calling.

Alright, Still

* Lily Allen * Capitol

If you haven't heard the buzz about Lily Allen yet, one can only assume you're still living in the dark ages of DOS prompts and dial-up. Since she started posting songs on her MySpace page in November 2005, the 21-year-old Londoner has racked up over 5 million listens. Her first single, "Smile," ruled U.K. airwaves last year, while the debut album, Alright, Still, entered the charts at number 2.

So what's all the fuss about? Plenty, as American record buyers can now finally discover. Allen knows exactly what makes a song catchy, and she ensures that nearly every cut on the vibrant Alright, Still is sing-along ready. Her arrangements are distinctly 21st-century compositions, borrowing the shiniest bits and pieces from various genres. Its predominant bouncy reggae rhythms and skanking brass will appeal to the No Doubt set, but there's also jacked-up EZ listening like the delightful "Everything, s Just Wonderful" (and, no, it isn't), as well as soft rock and lurching jazz.

But Allen's hyperliterate lyricism is the corker. Her rhymes rival those of Eminem, Morrissey, or Cole Porter/stringing together "weight loss" with "Kate Moss" is just one of dozens of smile-inducers). She articulates the ever-shifting mix of skepticism and hope that characterizes young adulthood through a concise, vicious, and distinctly feminine wit--think a more focused Nellie McKay minus the Tin Pan Alley nostalgia, or, better yet, think the late Kirsty MacColl.

Most of the 11 originals here sublimely intertwine the bitter and the sweet, and Allen delivers them in a voice that can flip mid-phrase from a twittering trill to a sharp-edged sneer. The relatively straightforward breakup reminiscence "Littlest Things" softens her up just enough, but she's at her best when facing down anyone who gets in her way, be they social phonies ("Friend of Mine"), mean-spirited door people ("Friday Night"), or exboyfriends who are, ahem, ill-equipped ("Not Big"). Lily Allen isn't a lass you'd want to meet in a dark alley, but it's a pleasure to make her acquaintance.
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Article Details
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Author:Reighley, Kurt B.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Feb 27, 2007
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