Woah. So Lily Allen just threw a stick of dynamite into music in 2013. If you thought, from the sound of her cover of Keane’s insipid ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ on this year’s John Lewis crimbo ad, that she was aiming for BBC Radio 2’s playlist, you’re wrong – screw open letters, the song ‘Hard Out There’ and its accompanying video is one of the boldest and most powerful comments on the treatment of women in the media this decade. Prepare to read reams and reams of column inches about it for days to come after the internet starts working again, but in the meantime here’s a look at five of the highlights.
Torching Robin Thicke
Allen savages pretty much the whole of current popular culture in the lyrics and video for ‘Hard Out There’, from shitty women’s magazines to Miley’s sledgehammer, the male suits who run much of the music industry to Jay Z (and anyone else who uses the word ‘bitch’ in a track) but in one scene she directly sends up the grossest video of the year, Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’. Instead of ‘Robin Thicke has a big dick’ spelled out in balloons, Lily sings in front of a balloon montage that spells out ‘Lily Allen has a baggy pussy’. She’s taking no prisoners.
Satirising the cult of skinny
The video begins with Allen on a liposuction table, preparing to step back in the limelight. As the fat spurts into glass beakers, her manager says, “Jesus, how can someone let themselves get like this, huh? “It’s a lack of self-discipline, I suppose,” says the professional fat-remover. “Umm I had two babies,” she says before blasting into one of the greatest British pop songs of the year…
Top notch pop belter
So, what about the music? Don’t panic – there’s nothing Keaney about ‘Hard Out Here’. It’s a phenomenally catchy firework that sounds exactly as you’d hope Allen would do in 2013 – but better.
Allen’s satirising popular culture and its objectification problem, but she’s also pretty candid about it in the lyrics. “There’s a glass ceiling to break, there’s money to make, it’s time to speed it up,” she sings, just to clear up any confusion that the parody’s real. Each line pulls no punches, from “Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits” to “have you thought about your butt? Who’s going to tear it in two?” She sends up those who think feminism is redundant and things are cool for women with “we’ve never had it so good, we’re out of the woods.” Typically Allen, it’s funny and caustic.
The black lipstick. The Notorious B.I.G printed dress. The gold-glitter and peppermint nails. The transparent mac. Excellent.
After almost a full year of multiple opinion around women in the music industry, Allen has returned with one of the most important and empowering statements. Here’s to the rest of the album.