Pop sensation. Voice of her generation. Fashion designer. Political activist. Fall-down drunk. Queen of MySpace. Exhibitionist. Primadonna. Style icon. Celebrity daughter. Paparazzi prey. Party starter. Princess. Contrary, contradictory, occasionally catty, always compelling, Allen is Britain’s most consistently engaged and engaging pop star, as well as one of our most successful.
She first commandeered the public stage in July 2006, a fully formed phenomenon with a song that would help define that summer, the hugely infectious ‘Smile’, her first CD single and her first UK number one - a breezy, lilting, ska-inflected slice of perfect pop distinguished by sugar-sweet vocals and unflinchingly autobiographical lyrics. Later, ‘Smile’ would win a BMI songwriting award - not bad for a first attempt.
‘Smile’ prompted the producer Mark Ronson to fly her to New York where they collaborated on the delicate ‘The Littlest Things’. ‘LDN’ was, if anything, even more insidious and distinctive: a faux-naïve, text-spelt, profane paean to the city of her birth in all its grimy glory. Ronson and another American producer, Greg Kurstin, were the crucial collaborators on ‘Alright, Still’, which eventually sold 2.5 million records, broke into the Billboard top 20 in America, earned Allen five BRIT nominations and a triumphant spot on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2007.
On Lily Allen’s second album, ‘It’s Not Me, Its’ You’ a new sound had emerged: darker perhaps, definitely dancier, clearly more mature. ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ is unmistakably Lily: bracing home truths and pungent social commentary delivered in the voice of an angel. It’s a potent combination. It could only be Lily Allen.