Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lily Allen's Hard Out There: Love it or hate it, it's still important

I honestly can't decide what to say about Lily Allen's comeback single. I heartily approve of the message ("the music business is a bit sexist, innit?") but sweet baby Jesus, the tune is dreadful.

Lily's always had a jaunty, sing-song voice, but Hard Out There is no more than an auto-tuned nursery rhyme. The middle eight is, I presume, a wicked parody of pop songs that run out of ideas at the half-way point – but the rest of the song needs to be better for the joke to work.

And while I applaud Lily for tackling sexism, she's not exactly feminism's most insightful orator. Sample lyrics include "If you're not a size six, then you're not good looking" and "Don't need to shake my arse for you, cos I've got a brain". Laudable sentiments, but hardly original or thought-provoking. Furthermore, both No Doubt and TLC have said the same things better (although, depressingly, they were saying those things 20 years ago and nothing seems to have changed).

More recently, Grimes and Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry have written excoriating, soul-searching blogs about the sexism they’ve experienced in the music industry. Shorn of Lily's habitual sarcasm, they hit home much, much harder. Lauren's piece in the Guardian, in particular, is heart-rending: "I am embarrassed to admit that I have had more than one prolonged toilet cry," she wrote about the violently abusive Facebook comments she's received.

But Lauren also said this: "My hopes are that if anything good comes out of this, it will start a conversation, or continue the conversation which is already happening". And that's why Lily's song is important: Not only is she adding to the debate, but she'll get played on daytime Radio One, she'll get into Grazia, and her lyrics will reach more people. The Mirror, of all newspapers, rushed to praise the Hard Out There's "explosive message" in their morning edition today.

Interestingly, the video makes the song 10 times better. Lily punctures a series of typical music video set-ups (most notably Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines), while her manager tries to persuade her to show more skin, lose some weight and fellate a banana.

"How can someone let themselves get like this?" he asks of Lily's weight, as she lies on a surgeon's table, undergoing liposuction.

"Um... I had two babies," she replies.

I started this post declaring I couldn't decide what to say, yet I've said rather a lot. I'm still not sure I like the song, but it's great to have Lily back, and in fury-spitting form.

Thanks for helping me think it through.

Lily Allen - Hard Out There

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