A Few Words In Defense of Lily Allen

I guess it hurts the head when pop art makes you , and Lily Allen’s gone and done that.  As Allen recommences her career more or less for the first time since 2009 (with two new children and a septicemic stillbirth in between), what arises are the stirrings of a follow up to that posh dagger It’s Not Me It’s You, said title no one who is bitching about her new video seems to have paid attention to.

Oh come on. If you can’t give Lily the benefit of the doubt based on her well-established cultural credibility, then wake up to the fact that the supposed anti-feminist, even racist meat of her video is a propofol dream (during which she’s projecting herself into someone else’s video y’all) that has at its root a most egregious offense of establishing sisterhood—“it’s hard out here for a bitch”—across a broader range of anatomical expectations than maybe is usual. That Allen turned the Three 6 Mafia lyric (“It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp”) upside down is dead obvious, but that doesn’t mean the implications haven’t eluded the whining gasbags.

Plus, the song is catchy as hell.

There’s no winning these arguments because they revolve around applying a fixed cultural theory to a moving target, but so be it: I’m delighted to hear (and see) Lily Allen make her punk cred so conspicuous. Not sonically, like her alterna-sis Kate Nash’s devilishly Youtube-only “Underestimate the Girl”: Allen is punk by way of cultural subversion, and that puts her farther from family friend Saint Joe Strummer and nearer to that other punk saint, dear departed Poly Styrene. “Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?” indeed.

Which reminds me to add a shout-out to Jon Savage and Stuart Baker’s Punk 45, which celebrates 7”cover art from you-know-when. We think of punk now as loud/fast plus (maybe) attitude, but Punk 45 is a bracing reminder that in its original form it was so much more: fashion, visual arts, all those things. Although 7” picture sleeves existed before punk, the DIY approach made, for the first time, the physical record a work of art. And the punks had great influences too: Kleenex’s “You/U” conjures Bauhaus and Buzzcock’s “Orgasm Addict” does the same with Dada. The last cover shown in Punk 45 is Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, which in this context serves as a fitting tombstone for a collection that reminds the reader how shocking and inventive punk actually was.