A frown turned upside down

Lily Allen’s bitterness has a sweet side on her album “Alright, Still”

Haily Gostas

During her recent Saturday Night Live performance of sudden smash hit “Smile,” UK popster Lily Allen did anything but.

Lily Allen
ALBUM: “Alright, Still”
LABEL: Capito

In fact, she was downright awkward. Rather than smile, her face maintained a slightly horrified, nervous look reminiscent of a little kid about to wet herself on a pageant stage, and teetering around in too-tall heels and a garishly poofy cupcake dress certainly didn’t help Allen’s already stiff, uncomfortable movements. Her gorgeous, purring voice was mostly pleasant (no lip syncing here), but seriously girl, have a bit of fun here! Bounce, dance, sneer, whatever.

“Smile” is Allen’s definitively delightful kiss-off, about a cheating beau that pathetically tries to win her back, and his subsequent misery that makes her grin from ear to ear. Plus, it’s her album’s, “Alright, Still,” best track with flying colors. You’d think a loose, energetic routine would be a requirement.

Maybe she loses a bit of the ol’ confidence in translation when crossing the pond, because the incident hardly mirrors her impeccably infectious, tough-as-nails demeanor found on “Alright, Still.”

On the album, Allen spits tart lyrics over breezy, sugarcoated sounds, a nice, then naughty approach that perfectly showcases her razor wit and even sharper tongue. She’s like a kitten bearing its claws, draping her catty attacks on those that wronged her in an innocent sweetness that only adds to the eventual sting.

Ex-boyfriends get the brunt of the album’s disses, though with tracks like the club smackdown “Friday Night,” dumb broads obviously come in as close seconds. It’s pretty easy to decipher what Allen means when playfully mouthing off to an old flame, proclaiming of plans to “work my way through your mates” and announcing that he’s not “big in the game/ not big whatsoever.” But that’s where the charm lies, in Allen refusing to take the high road and instead opting for hear-me-roar declaration of bratty youth.

“Knock ‘Em Out” follows a similar pattern, a song that serves as Allen’s rich girl’s guide to The Streets. Mike Skinner (the other white mega-hit Brit who specializes in rapping about the opposite sex’s shortcomings, especially during pub encounters) couldn’t have penned a better scenario himself. She gets the comparison often, but with lyrics that involve her telling a very forward dunce that her house is on fire and that she has AIDS in order to avoid his drunken come-ons, it’s awfully fitting.

“LDN” (text message slang for Allen’s fair city of London) is a gorgeous pop confection, boasting vintage horn samples, a sunny disposition, and hilariously ironic lyrics. Allen seems to prefer this song’s feel-good tinges of Specials-brand ska and calypso-reggae throughout most of “Alright, Still,” resulting in bright and bold pop structures that layer well over Allen’s smart, snarky lyrics.

The album putters a bit halfway through, especially after the beginning string of excellent pop chart-worthy tracks, but regains its footing with the slow-skanking beats of “Friend Of Me” (which is, contrary to how it appears, actually an anti-friendship ballad). “Alright, Still” leaves its audience howling for more by the time it finishes cheekily with mostly harmless jabs at her lazy, pot-smoking brother and ancient, overbearing grandmother in “Alfie” and “Nan, You’re A Window Shopper,” respectively.

Allen will never entirely come across as the Cockney working class homegirl “Alright, Still” sets her up to be. A quick Internet search will prove her to be the privileged daughter of an actor and a film producer whose rich-kid rebellions involved selling ecstasy out of sheer boredom.

Still, she’s got just enough sass to pass, possessing a swagger unrivaled by any of her female pop peers especially (at least on the album, in person is another story). It is hoped by the next album, she will have nailed her style and her persona perfectly; until then, while there may be all sorts of promise for something long-term, Allen remains a fun, flippant summer-album fling.