Three years writing for Pearshaped, and I remain as naïve as ever, subconsciously believing that an artist’s music won’t have changed over the last twelve years. I fondly remember the 2006 Lily Allen and catchy tunes such as Smile and LDN. In No Shame, even though she clearly hasn’t abandoned her old style entirely, Allen has consciously made an effort to keep up with the current trends, forcing in autotune and electronic backing on numerous occasions, finally giving us a product that isn’t unbearable, but still not quite what her old fans were hoping for.
If you remember Lily Allen like I do, the first song provides a slightly disorienting start to the album. Come On Then, which calls out those who critique Allen’s lifestyle, has some decent lyrics, but is slathered with unnecessary autotune and an electronic beat. Combined with a monotonous melody, the track is, to be frank, underwhelming. The next few tracks don’t do much to improve the initial impression of No Shame. The electronic songs are quite bland, but to make matters worse, Allen has opted for a lot of collaborations in this album, and the choices are weak- Giggs, Burna Boy and Meridian Dan do not work cohesively with Allen’s style, with their misplaced rap verses creating a thoroughly poor result. All of the collaborators also seem to opt for some cringy lyrics, including Meridian Dan literally rapping, ‘I just went out for a little Chinese/ Had Chinese then couldn’t leave/ I lost my phone and my cards and keys’ in Higher, a song that’s meant to be discussing the dark side of the music industry. Lost My Mind on the contrary, shows how Allen’s old qualities can blend with her new, electronic style. Upbeat with melancholy lyrics and a catchy melody, the track remains a lot more memorable than most of the others.
Unlike most other albums I have reviewed, No Shame actually improves quite a bit in the second half. As per her interviews, this album is meant to showcase all Allen has been through in the past few years without a filter, including her divorce and her relationship with her two children as a working mother. When her songs aren’t covered in a heavy layer of synth and autotune, both Allen’s voice and lyrics are given a chance to shine, and both remain as interesting as they always were. Family Man and Apples, backed minimally by simple acoustic instruments are emotional listens, discussing Allen’s relationship with her ex-husband. Three is an unusual but moving track, written from the perspective of a child with a working mother. The understated nature of these tracks brings out the best of Allen, both lyrically and vocally, proving she hasn’t been entirely converted by current trends. Waste and Pushing Up Daisies revert to the style of the first half, but they are still enjoyable, especially due to their upbeat tunes and comical lyrics, such as, ‘When we’ve lost our teeth, sleep in separate beds/When we’re just a strain on the NHS/Will you stay with me?’ Cake, contrarily, brings the album to a disappointing close, a half-hearted attempt at writing an inspirational track.
There’s no denying it- Lily Allen’s music has changed trying to fit the mould of what rules the charts now, maybe it was inevitable. And while her attempt to appeal to a larger group of listeners has led to some surprisingly bland tracks with unimpressive collaborators, the second half of No Shame suggests that Allen has still managed to maintain some of her best qualities while trying new things, including her quirky but well-written lyrics, feel-good tunes, and relatable themes in her music. I’m not sure where she will go from here, but I’m curious to find out.