Lily Allen has released two new singles from her upcoming album No Shame. Slated for a June 9th release, the album will be Allen’s first since 2014’s Sheezus, and looks set to be a more muted, earthy affair than its colourful predecessor. ‘Higher’ and ‘Three’ follow ‘Trigger Bang’ as the latest tracks to be released from the upcoming record, both mellow, melancholy songs that deal with the theme of abandonment.
‘Three’ is sung from the perspective of a three-year-old with a deadbeat dad. Lyrically, it’s reminiscent of Allen’s 2009 track ‘He Wasn’t There’, a song that detailed Allen’s difficult relationship with her father. But while ‘He Wasn’t There’ ended on a positive note, its mock ragtime rhythm keeping things cheery and Allen concluding “now everything’s fine”, ‘Three’ offers no such happy ending. “You say you love me then you walk out of the door,” sings an injured Allen over a desolate piano arrangement. The track ends with the repeated refrain of “I’m only three,” Allen adopting the role of a guileless child with almost creepy accuracy.
‘Higher’ is a similarly down-tempo track, but now Allen is singing from a different perspective, a chastising lover examining the ruins of her relationship. “You’re lying, it’s in your eyes, don’t try it,” Allen sings, though there’s no anger in her voice, only a bitter disappointment. But through the sadness, the moping electronic trills and downbeat arrangement, Allen remains determined not to lose sight of herself. “I said I’d never let you waste my time… You crossed that line,” she sings, reminding both her ex and herself that she is the wronged party, denying her lover the chance to play the victim. “You’ll be fine, stop crying,” she scoffs, determined to keep her composure.
While ‘Three’ leans on a more familiar sound, Allen having form for crafting affecting piano ballads (see ‘Littlest Things’ and ‘I Could Say’), ‘Higher’ opts for something a little more modern with its percussive clicks and fashionably sparse arrangement. But what binds both tracks is their theme of disappointing men. Historically, this has always been a focal point of Allen’s music, from debut track ‘Smile’ that dealt with a cheating boyfriend to ‘Hard Out Here’, that called out industry chauvinism. On her latest tracks, Allen keeps things personal, laying bare the failings of men who were supposed to be reliable.
Previously, Allen’s music has often been confrontational in the face of injustice (see ‘Fuck You’ for the most pertinent example), but her latest tracks suggest a mellowing. That isn’t to say Allen isn’t still angry, but rather that she’s found a more authentic channel for her emotions. Speaking to Julie Adenuga for Beats Music, Allen said “I know this is the best album I can make, and there haven’t been any outside sources telling me what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s going to work for radio.” Later in the interview, she eluded to her unhappiness during the Sheezus era, saying this led to an ‘identity crisis’.
With Allen’s new tracks, there’s no feeling of crisis. Instead, there’s the palpable sense she’s settling into a comfortable new sound uninfluenced by record execs and chart expectations. But while her sound may be changing, there’s one thing Lily Allen isn’t going to quit any time soon – calling out disappointing, unreliable and downright shitty men.