Lily Allen: ripped ball gowns, cigarettes and salty lyrics

There’s something fascinating about music stars who have a love/hate relationship with their career or even treat it with a little bit of disrespect. The big divas who after a couple of successful records, whether we’re talking inter- or just nationally, dramatically announce the end of their career. Most of the time, they blame it on the lack of privacy or issues with the paparazzi. Massive stars, such as Adele, previously stated that writing sad songs and touring the world for two years straight doesn’t really suit their mommy lifestyle, changing diapers and singing lullabies.

“My idea of hell would be doing this still in 25 years time. I don’t wanna be Madonna. No offence, but it’s not what drives me.”

The reality usually slaps back and pop stars who once promised to run away to the country to eat pies and watch old episodes of A Place In The Sun on More4 very often come back to the studio. In 2010, Lily Allen announced that the massive gig at the O2 Arena in London, which was meant to be the last on her world tour, would, in fact, be her last ever live performance. The singer made a decision to dedicate her life to fashion retail and spent over a quarter of a million pounds of her own money to open a boutique with designer vintage gowns. Her initial idea was to allow customers to both buy and rent the items, which at the time was received with mixed feedback. The process of disappearing from the public eye and opening the store was, ironically, documented by Channel 4 in a TV series called Lilly Allen: From Riches to Rags. In one scene, Allen joined by her sister and brand director observed the focus group meeting arranged to get some feedback on the item pricing and general business model. One of the girls participating in the event laughed at the £340 fee Allen and her sister wanted to charge customers willing to hire the designer piece for three days. “I can go to a second-hand store in Paris and get a similar one for cheaper.”

“Fuck off!” Lily replied and left the room.

In 2014, after two successful albums and numerous promises of retirement, Allen came back to the spotlight with her third studio album Sheezus. The singer admitted taking inspiration from Kanye West’s album Yeezus. On the title track, she sings about being on her period, straight after name-dropping artists such as Lady Gaga or Lorde.

The album was inspired by Allen’s experiences as a wife and mother and was originally going to be released under the name Lily Rose Cooper, which was her full legal name at the time. Those promises, like the ones about retirement or quitting social media, were never kept. At the time of its release, Lily was proud of her album, which received positive reviews from critics. A few years later, when her next album came out, she referred to Sheezus as her identity crisis. Allen’s indecisiveness is not a flaw, at least not to me. How many times have we promised to quit smoking, block our ex, update our CV or start working out? The fact she’s able to admit that she hates Instagram, at the same time being “too weak to leave” makes her the ultimate relatable queen in the eyes of many. 

The idea for her 2010 business venture didn’t come out of nowhere. Allen has always loved fashion, never afraid to splash some serious cash on designer pieces. When Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic Chanel designer who passed away in 2019 saw the pictures of her out and about, dressed all in Chanel, he asked his staff:

“Who is this girl? Why are we sending her all that free stuff?”

“We’re not,” they replied. “She’s buying it.”

Lagerfeld quickly made Allen the face of Chanel handbags in the 2009 campaign. A million girls would kill for this job. “She’s fun!” he said about her. Shame Adele didn’t receive such lovely comments from the legendary designer. And unlike Lily, she didn’t get to perform her song at the Chanel fashion show. Don’t worry, she’s doing OK. I’m sure she never cried about it…

Starting on MySpace, Allen rose to fame thanks to her brutally honest lyrics and ball gowns paired with Nike trainers. Her second album “It’s not me, it’s you” only confirmed her status as a talented songwriter. She’s won Ivor Novellos for songwriting, a BRIT award for Best British Female and sold over five million copies of her albums worldwide. She was never afraid to dedicate her, again, brutally honest song Fuck You to political figures such as George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Theresa May or Boris Johnson. 

Her latest album No Shame was released in 2018. The record, which was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, is as yet again as honest as it gets. Some fans think of it as her best body of work to date. My favourite will always be the 2010’s It’s Not Me, It’s You. It takes some serious balls to open the collection of songs with one about the normalisation of drug abuse amongst young people, only to present the public with another one, this time about bad, awkward sex two songs later. “I can’t wait. I mean, for this to be over, not the actual gig!”, she said right before going on stage back in 2010. Well, I guess I’m glad the O2 concert wasn’t the last one.

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