UK pop star delivers sunny debut

Andrew Gaug

British pop music has always had a tough time selling in the U.S.

While recent piano-driven English artists such as Coldplay and James Blunt go platinum, other U.K. natives such as Robbie Williams and Jamie Cullum fail to move more than a few thousand albums.

It’s even worse for British female pop star Lily Allen as she ventures into a genre that lately hasn’t generated many stars other than Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson.

But while most American female singers spend time showboating their singing abilities to a safe, adult contemporary beat, Lily Allen’s Alright, Still shows the strength of restraining the singer’s voice to focus more on lyrics and excellent production.

Lily Allen

Alright, Still

Released on EMI Records

Stater rating (out of five): ????

Like British rapper Lady Sovereign’s CD last year, Allen’s music doesn’t shape herself into being the prototypical pop star with a squeaky clean image and perfect body. On “Everything’s Just Wonderful,” she wishes she could “eat spaghetti bolognese/and feel bad about it for days and days” while also shunning magazines that “talk about weight loss/if I buy those jeans/I can look like Kate Moss.”

She travels around London on the sunny, brass-tinged “Ldn” and witnesses a pimp beating a prostitute and an old lady getting mugged. She realizes that despite London’s bright facade, “when you look with your eyes/everything seems nice/but when you look twice/ you can see it’s all lies.”

Though the bulk of Alright, Still runs around in circles – it constantly deals with Allen’s anger toward an ex – the production stays refreshing by mixing reggae with hip-hop on “Smile” and “Not Big,” but falters on the unnecessary filler track “Shame for You.”

Above all, Alright, Still succeeds because it’s an honest pop album. Allen found her success through Myspace and it shows as her music sounds like a regular person dealing with everyday problems, as opposed to a millionaire singing about her problems with fame. She deals with the loneliness after a breakup (“Littlest Things”), tries to get her brother to stop smoking pot (“Alfie”) and takes playful jabs at her grandma’s shopping methods (“Nan You’re A Window Shopper”).

Allen’s voice harkens back to early pop recordings of the ’60s as she doesn’t bother belting songs out over a backtrack but rather sings them straightforward with personality and sincerity.

It’s tough to say whether Alright, Still will be a success in the States – attention to female singers is usually fickle when it comes to creative efforts, not to mention it’s the perfect summer record that’s being released in February. Regardless, Alright, Still is one of the most creative female pop albums since Nelly Furtado’s debut album, Whoa! Nelly and has all the charisma of a Justin Timberlake album.

Contact assistant ALL editor Andrew Gaug at [email protected].