It would be easy to think that Lily Allen’s job is shooting down trolls on Twitter, but she’s actually a singer-songwriter, saddling up to release her fourth album in June. She returned to a small hometown stage last night after a spell in which she’s mostly been in the news for the demise of her marriage, speaking out about the Grenfell fire and Calais refugees and a seven-year ordeal at the hands of a stalker. Unsurprisingly she confessed to nerves.
She walked on already singing Higher, a pretty ballad whose lyrics depicted an argument in a relationship while a relaxed guitar line kept the feel light. She has always had a talent for saying shocking things sweetly with that high, cooing voice. This time around, rather than expressing distaste for erectile dysfunction or the President of the United States, her issues seemed more personally damaging.
Lost My Mind was self-explanatory. Come On Then, despite its combative title, sounded embattled. “I feel like I’m under attack all the time,” she sang, while again, the music stayed stark and melodic. She has been working with producers including Mark Ronson and Fryars on her new material, and arrived at an organic electronic sound that touches on the Afrobeats style of the moment but remains uniquely hers.
She hasn’t lost her knack for a witty couplet. On Trigger Bang, detailing the wayward childhood that means she needs to steer clear of the cool kids for her health these days, she sang: “I was attracted to danger/I never got home for Neighbours.” Rapper Giggs joined her here for a verse and a few hugs.
Nor has she stopped being uncomfortably honest in her self-examination. On Apple, another minimal ballad, she suggested: “I’m just like my mummy and daddy/I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” They too separated when the children were very young.
This could have been reality TV in music form, but the quality of the new songs, and the subtlety of their delivery, elevated the tone hugely. It’s still worth listening to her in the way that she should be heard.