God bless Lily Allen. She says and sings the inflammatory things other pop stars probably feel but would never voice aloud. Since emerging in 2005 from the once-fertile soil of MySpace, Allen has been pop music’s equivalent of an Internet troll: She pulls the pin on a grenade and then slinks out of the room with a sly smile on her face.
The British singer and songwriter uses that tactic to delicious effect on “Sheezus,” her first album in five years and first since motherhood and marriage. Allen has been out of the game for a while, at least by pop standards, but she knows how to get back in the ring, as outlined on the album’s title track. “Sheezus,” which is a riff on Kanye West’s album “Yeezus,” name-checks other pop singers — Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Lorde, Lady Gaga — in order for Allen to assert she’s going to be the ringleader of all of them.
Allen especially relishes the chance to deflate her detractors on this album. Speaking of Internet trolls, she dips into one’s psyche on “URL Badman”: “It’s not for me/ It must be wrong/ I could ignore it and move on/ But I’m a broadband champion/ A URL badman.”
She delivers the knockout punch on “Hard Out Here,” an earworm with a bubblegum beat and a barbed perspective right in line with pop music’s great feminist anthems like Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” The chorus succinctly explains Allen’s appeal: “Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to say/ I’ll go ahead and say them anyway.” (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Hard Out Here”