Lily Allen returns with her strongest album yet.
harp music tinkles through the reading room at Claridge’s, London’s grande-dame hotel. Pink bubbles and finger-cut sandwiches surround singer-songwriter Lily Allen (daughter of British actor Keith Allen), who has sold millions of albums and works with Sir Elton John. It’s quite fitting. The 29-year-old has checked in as “Betty Buttons” and looks like a young Audrey Hepburn: All smiles, she’s wearing leggings with turquoise slippers, and her hair is in a ponytail fastened with a black barrette. She seems a bit tired as she checks her cellphone for messages from her husband—builder and decorator Sam Cooper—to make sure that everything is fine at home. Yet the former enfant terrible is as entertaining and witty as you’d expect from someone who has named her third album Sheezus.
While you were taking a break, pop music changed: It’s sexier. How do you fit in now? Do you compete with the
Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys of the world? “I’m not trying to compete with anybody. And actually that’s what the song ‘Sheezus’ is all about. The whole point of creating music is that there isn’t a competitive side to it. [Laughs] This idea that all women hate each other and are in competition with each other must sell newspapers. But I’ve never walked backstage at an awards show and spat at somebody else’s dressing-room door.” So why Sheezus? Is that a spoof on Kanye West? “It’s a spoof, but it’s not being negative in any way. I really admire him, and I respect what he stands for—that he is honest, says what he feels and wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s more than most people in this business do. To me, that’s what makes him ‘Yeezus.’ And if he’s ‘Yeezus,’ I’d like to be ‘Sheezus.’”
We need to talk about “Close Your Eyes,” though. It’s sexy! Do you ever, as the song implies, pretend to be Beyoncé?
“I’ve never done it, but I guess the song is a bit fantastical. In the first few months after you have children, it becomes quite difficult to reconnect with the sexier side of yourself. And so that’s kind of what that song is about. It’s trying to reconnect.” [Laughs] Has becoming a parent changed your perspective? “My drive is completely different. When I wake up in the morning, my children are the first thing I think about—mainly because they have woken me up! It’s like my life has been turned completely upside down for the better. I’m less selfish, and things have a little more meaning and depth all of a sudden. I’m not saying this is the same for everybody, but that’s the effect it has had on my life. I don’t know if I want more children, though. I don’t know if I would be able to cope with more. Especially boys. I mean, if they got their mom’s temper in a male body, that would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it?” [Laughs]
I heard you got bored at home with your girls and that’s what made you return to music.
“It was really hard— spending all day, every day, with two human beings who can’t communicate with you. And for someone like me— when my whole existence is about communicating and response—it was quite frustrating. I felt like I needed to get out and do something else with my time. But now that the oldest one is talking, I feel like I’m missing stuff because I’m not there to see it all. So, that’s painful too. [Laughs] But you can’t have it all.” Marcel Anders