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Sheezus – the title cocks a snook at Kanye West’s bullying Yeezus – portrays Lily Allen as London’s leading anti-pop star. It follows a five-year break during which she got married and started a family, a thoroughly conventional act that in today’s ultra-sexualised culture comes across as about the most radical thing a female pop star can do.
The subversion continues on the album, which takes the sorts of subjects Beyoncé doesn’t sing about – menstruation, being too tired to have sex because of the baby, hanging out on the sofa watching telly with Mr Right (“He’s going nowhere till this fat lady sings”) – and sets them to a series of breezy, charming songs, mainly produced by Allen’s long-time collaborator Greg Kirstin.
It gets off to a superb start with the title track, the singer delivering a slightly barbed shout-out to her female pop peers over a gentle trap beat, expressions of solidarity mixed with the odd dig (mainly at Lady Gaga).
“L8 CMMR” neatly updates the calypso lilt of her early songs while “Our Time” is a sweet pure pop anthem about incipient middle-age (“I might dance like your auntie/I don’t care, we’re here to party”). There are missteps – “Insincerely Yours” is a dull diatribe against that easiest of targets, celebrity culture – but the inconsistencies fit with Allen’s version of feminism, the right of a woman to depict herself flaws and all.