Everyone's favorite Brit-girl singer, Lily Allen, is hotter than ever. Her recently released second album, It's Not Me, It's You, entered the U.K. album chart at No. 1, while in the U.S., it debuted on top of the iTunes chart, coming in No. 5 overall with sales of more than 70,000 in its first week. Those aren't blockbuster numbers by any means, but given the current economic climate and the general downturn in the music business, Lily and her handlers have to be happy.
We're happy as well. It might seem odd for us to be championing Allen in Who's Next when it appears that she has already arrived, but there is a method to our madness. Lily was featured as a Who's Next act more than two years ago. Like a proud parent who has watched their young cute children transform into sassy teenagers and eventually, regular adult humans, we take pride in watching our one-time Who's Next acts grow up, especially when they become successful.
In the case of Lily, she toured, bleached her hair blond and then went back to brunette, was photographed topless by paparazzi, and came back with a new album that's just as impressive as Alright, Still, the debut that made us take notice the first time around. With that note, check out the video for "The Fear," the first single from Lily's new album, which has already received the thumbs up for our very own Dave DiMartino in his fabulous New This Week blog.
On a personal note, I've watched Lily grow as a performer first hand, having caught and reviewed her L.A. debut at the intimate Troubadour and a subsequent show at the larger Music Box @ The Fonda. "Sometimes the buzz surrounding a new act can be a double-edged sword. Sure, it's great if a new artist generates a lot of excitement before the release of an album. Yet sometimes the hoopla can become so enormous that it's impossible for an artist to match the expectations," I wrote. "Such was the case Saturday at the sold-out Troubadour, when British blog sensation Lily Allen made her Los Angeles debut with a short 40-minute set that showed hints of future star power but didn't live up to the excitement surrounding her."
In other words, Allen left me a bit disappointed the first time around. But I didn't give up on her. "What a difference four months makes," I wrote when I reviewed her the second time around. "When British sensation Lily Allen made her Los Angeles debut in October at the Troubadour, she failed to live up to the buzz with a short set that had plenty of promise but too little sizzle.... At the much larger Music Box, Allen stretched her set out to an hour with a few choice covers, loosened up, grooved to the beats of a live drummer and showed talent that went even beyond her superb debut album."
While that was admittedly a bit wordy, I can tell you I really was impressed with Lily's second L.A. show. One of the things I like most about Lily, other than her own fine original material, is that she seems keenly aware of what's going on around her and what came before. By that I mean that Lily is the queen of the cover version. My personal digital library sports Lily's renditions of Keane's "Everybody's Changing" (which made me reconsider the merits of that band), the Kooks' "Naive," the Kaiser Chiefs' "Oh My God," the Pretenders' "Don't Get Me Wrong," the Clash's "Straight To Hell" (which she recorded with former Clash man Mick Jones for the forthcoming War Child Heroes album) and Britney Spears' "Womanizer." The latter, I much prefer to the original and she happens to be performing it live right this very second as I type on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic.
Here, for your listening pleasure, is Lily's version of "Oh My God," from Mark Ronson's fine 2007 release aptly titled Versions.
When I saw Allen perform the second time, she covered the aforementioned Kooks and Keane tunes as well as "Blank Expression" by '80s ska revivalists the Specials. Lily's acknowledgement of the past may be due to the fact that her godfather is the late, great Clash frontman Joe Strummer.
When Lily visited the Yahoo! Music studios back in 2006, she also chose a cover, "Up The Junction," by those cool cats Squeeze. You can check out her take on that tune below, as well as her exclusive interview and performances of her own "Smile" and "Littlest Things."
After viewing those clips you can tell your friends that you saw Lily perform in an intimate showcase before she hit it big and you won't be lying, only conveniently leaving out the words "on Yahoo! Music." But that's OK. We'll forgive you.