A gut-wrenching peak into a period of chaos and heartache, No Shame is the latest of Lily Allenâs raw and honest triumphs.
Lily Allen would be the first to admit that her previous album Sheezus wasnât great. In an attempt to break into a new market, she found herself catering her sound to certain specifications. It couldnât and wouldnât sell, because it wasnât Lily Allen.
No Shame, however, is the real. Baggage and all, cleverly diffused by simple gritty hooks and twinkling chords. Fusing fun dancehall vibes with stirring commentaries on personal history, popular culture, The Daily Mail, and sex positivity - Allen has created what seems more of a tell-all memoir than an album. Tender moments are spritzed with simple guitar riffs, while heavier lyrics are bolstered by clear-cut drums and anthemic pianos.
âYour Choice (feat. Burna Boy)â is an outwardly upbeat track, channelling a tropical dancehall vibe that skilfully disguises a final resignation to the reality of the breakdown of Allenâs marriage with Sam Cooper and their ensuing split: âNot gonna lie but this might be dying / Surprised âcause I thought you were alrightâ. âApplesâ roots around in the boxes of Lily Allenâs parentsâ divorce, drawing comparisons between their experience and the decline of her own marriage. Itâs a track tinged with adolescent sadness, wistful nostalgia and heart wrenching honesty. Sitting comfortably at a sweet falsetto, Allen is accompanied by a simple stabbing keyboard.
At the albumâs most glamorous, âFamily Manâ feels perfectly at home performed in a dusky, deep-red cladded club; Lily Allen adorned in rich silk under a single spotlight; martini carefully balanced on a rickety stool. A dramatic piano ballad, âFamily Manâ is cushioned with guilt, selfishness, and longing (âBaby donât leave me / Iâm just doing what I canâ) and shines a sequin-reflected light on some of her darkest concerns.
Drawing on her self-doubt as a mother, âThreeâ is written from the perspective of her young daughters. The track is a harrowing portrayal of a childâs bitterness towards a half-present mother and exposes the buried lie of a working woman who can have it all. A touching moment for feminine solidarity, Allen triumphs in her commentary.
No Shame has a significantly heart breaking mid-section, culminating in âEverything to Feel Somethingâ where she describes the perpetual cycle of chronic depression. âMy heart aches, my heart aches, my heart achesâ she warbles from the underworld, as she tries to force herself to feel something, anything, again. Her exasperated sobs are hard hitting, and slowly simmer into a ghostly numbness.
In a mildly confusing turn, the two closing tracks âPushing Up Daisiesâ and âCakeâ flip the tone of the album quicker than an Olympic gymnast. Much closer to the tempo of Itâs Not Me, Itâs You, âPushing Up Daisiesâ floats sweetly with gentle chimes and birdsong, while still finding space to snag a dig at the media: âIf Iâm Daily Mail reading know whatâs best / Swanning âround here in my slippers and dressing gown / Hope youâd give me a dressing downâ. âCakeâ, the album closer, is a balmy R&B number that flows like a fresh breeze through a stiflingly humid room. Allen chirps and chimes, urging us all to grab a piece of that âpatriarchy pieâ.
Lily Allen has in no way produced a Taylor Swift-esque break-up album, nor has she slipped into martyring herself. Instead, she deals with the collapse of her marriage and the journey to begin trusting herself again with a certain aloofness. Looking in from the outside, she is able to revisit those feelings of denial, self-deprecation, heartbreak, and regret, with a clear perspective. Nowhere does she come up trumps, but instead is the subject of most of the albumâs anguish. While it may become tiresome to experience a divorce first-hand through No Shame, the music itself saves the day. Soothing R&B tones, twinkling arpeggios and poppy hooks provide plenty of memorable tunes.