Lily Allen’s latest album is surprisingly listenable considering its deeply depressing content.
No Shame follows 2014’s Sheezus, which was a decent enough album, but felt like it was perhaps shying away from its own identity. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for 2018’s comeback which is an album that is apologetically itself.
Since her last album, Lily Allen has divorced from her partner Sam Cooper. The pain and the struggle of the separation dominate most of the album. “Apples” is a sincerely sad confession that Allen cannot help but compare her own failed marriage to her parents. She sings: “I’m just like mummy and daddy” as she admits to her marriage falling apart. The album’s opener “Come On Then” has a similarly confessional tone. She sings: “I’m a bad mother, I’m a bad wife / You saw it on the socials, you read it online.”
In spite of the somber content of the lyrics, the album is by no means a self-indulgent crying session. “No Shame” divulges on addiction, self-loathing, the blame-game, denial, depression and the downright upfront confession “my heart aches”. Nonetheless, it is musically ambitious and well put together enough to be enjoyed by listeners beyond the scope of a breakup album.
“What You Waiting For?” has a lively reggae beat and “Three” and “Family Man” feel a little reminiscent of her first and second album. Giggs features on “Trigger Bang” and Lady Chann on the reggae dance track “Waste.” The album’s collaborations and current feel steer the album in the direction of a fresh pop triumph rather than a self-pitying attempt to regain face after shots were fired at the artist’s reputation.
One of the album’s low points is perhaps “Three”, the track on which she confidently sings from the perspective of her three-year-old child. The lullaby-like piano accompaniment is miles away from some of her more interesting electro-pop experiments elsewhere on the album, but it is pleasant enough to listen to nonetheless.
The album’s closer, “Cake,” on the other hand, combines the sweetness of her earlier style but with the addition of her more recent, edgier sounds. The track opens with the lyrics “Don’t let anyone ever tell you who you are, what you can or can’t become” and the track consequently feels like a final statement about what kind of an artist she is now and that this is the artist she wants to be. She’s been through hell but she’s come out on the other side and is ready to take her own advice and ‘have her cake and eat it’.
All in all, No shame is an impressive record which manages to be both melancholy and enjoyable as a solid pop album at the same time.