Lily Allen divides people, plain and simple. Some people think she’s a snarky firecracker who transcends genre, while others view her as nothing more than Katy Perry without the Zooey Deschanel resemblance. There are well-read arguments for both sides, but one thing Allen proves on her sophomore disc is that she can be more mature and eloquent than Perry -- but only when she wants to.
The songs about sex and relationships with wildly blunt and inappropriate language that caught the eye of many people on her first album, Alright, Still, gets a little tiresome here. “Not Fair,” with its spaghetti western beat complete with banjo solo could be a sequel to Alright, Still’s “Not Big.” About a guy who is great in every aspect of their relationship except for his selfishness in the bedroom, it gets a little cringe-worthy: "Oh I lie here in the wet patch in the middle of the bed / I'm feeling pretty damn hard done by, I spent ages giving head." Announced to be the second single, I can’t wait to see how that couplet works on radio.
The album’s two lead-off tracks, “Everyone's at It” and “The Fear” are acceptable, though not distinctive, which tackle, respectively, the prevalence of drugs and the spoiled culture of young female celebrity (“I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds / I heard people die while they’re trying to find them”). They’re polished, clean and single-ready (indeed, “The Fear” is the record’s first single) but ultimately disposable.
It’s Not Me, It’s You takes a turn for the better on track 5 with the sublime “I Could Say,” starting a block through track 10 of the album’s best songs. Here is where her well-written, offbeat style meets maturity to a satisfying level. “Who’d Have known,” the album’s best track, bears a White Album-era Beatles piano stomp that looks at a budding relationship through a sophisticated lens. It’s followed by the dreamy “Chinese,” which paints a fully realized portrait as well as Lily ever has.
This album will appease Lily Allen fans who loved her first record, even if this is more dance-oriented versus her debut’s more ska leanings. But one has to wonder if on her third album she needs to litter it with “controversial” tracks like “Not Fair” and the awful “Him,” which ponders, among other things, if God is ever suicidal or tried cocaine. She’s established enough to where her mature tracks can top the charts; Lily should be able to move away from doing Eminem’s trademark of making the over-the-top, funny, zany song the lead single to hook the record-buying public. This will set her apart from the Katy Perrys of the pop world.