Who Wants To Be A Lilyonaire? – it’s the game every record label has spent 2007 feverishly playing.
Desperate to rediscover the lucrative formula that made Ms Allen Britain’s favourite daughter they’ve thrown silly money at LDN’s mouthy musical youth without much thought. Kate Nash has flourished, Jack Peñate has floundered. Now Remi Nicole steps up. With the weight of massive label funds and radio play behind her, can she convince a nation that she’s the real deal rather than just an actress in Converse? Well, she’s certainly making all the right moves; singing about rock’n’roll, banging on about how much she loves Oasis all the time, and wearing skinny 501s.
But the thing about Lily’s urban anecdotal style is that, much like Mike Skinner, her music relies upon the force of nature which is her personality bursting through the music. In Nicole’s case, unfortunately, the transparency of her faux-Allen lyrics merely make her character deficiencies glaringly obvious. ‘My Conscience And I’ is an album where
platitudes are mistaken for perception and where clichés replace emotion.
It’s all clear from the moment Miss Nicole announces that “I got no rhythm and I got no blues/I’m as happy as can be” on second track ‘Rock’N’Roll’. Hang on. That’s not a pronouncement you’d ever want to hear from someone promising to sing about themself for the next hour. But at least it’s honest: over these 12 tracks we’re never offered a shred of evidence as to why she has actually decided to record an album. With little discernable talent and less insight, Remi Nicole is left pointing at dull truisms in the way a baby in a pram points at a funny cloud floating by.
Take the chirpy reggae-lite verse of ‘New Old Days’. This jaunty death march through Nicole’s tired nostalgia is notable for its services to terrible lyricism. “Do you remember when we used to use a cassette player?/MP3s and DVDs weren’t invented/Do you remember people asking ‘Will you go out with me?’/ You’d say, ‘Yes, I’d love to’, and you meant it”. It’s not even clear what that means, let alone why anyone would think it interesting. But even that unedited lunacy is preferable to the grotesque cultural banalities that follow: “Timmy Mallett and Fun House with Pat Sharp, Guess Who?, Connect 4 and Murder In The Dark”. What is this, a musical version of I Love 1988?
It seems that Nicole has been encouraged to flex a lyrical muscle she clearly doesn’t possess. Unfortunately, it often lands her in trouble and flushes ‘My Concience And I’ with self-righteousness. On ‘Na Nighty’ Nicole pouts at an unfortunate boyfriend: “You’ll have to accept that this is me and this is who I love to be/I’ll never change for anyone especially not you”. That’s nice, then. Note the use of the word ‘love’. In the first 30 seconds of the album she manages to reference herself 10 times. Even its saving grace, the light-jazz of ‘Fed Up’, is little more than an elegant moan at the expense of others. Nicole, it seems, just can’t imagine what it’s like to be anyone else. Being self-obsessed is, of course, no crime in pop music, but, without insight, Nicole’s poetry is simply vain and narcissistic rather than fascinating.
“Some girls walk around with nothing on because they know that the sunshine won’t last long/So they really have to market themselves, because in winter they’ll be left on the shelf” Nicole sings on ‘Go Mr Sunshine’, the bastard cousin of Lily’s ‘LDN’. This kind of nonsensical and misguided assertion about others is a regular feature with which Nicole distances herself from what she sees as a mainstream culture she’s superior to. It’s something she does again on ‘Tabloid Queen’. The song’s trite sentiment that, y’know, celebrity culture, is like, really really shallow, could have been merely annoying were it not for Nicole’s determination to hold herself up as an alternative role model for girls lost in the “tabloid world”. She’s an expert, y’see. This after all is someone who wears a shirt and tie (“a bit bizarre” in the eyes of her critics) and whose preference for “skinny jeans to miniscule hot-pants” has positioned her as an outsider. This is hollow individualism on a mass scale, one purchasable on the high street.
Even disregarding the lyrics there’s little relief. The music is as grotesquely over-produced as its lyrics are undercooked, with glossy drum rolls and naff scratching segments fighting for attention on the gruesome battlefield. It’s an album desperate to tick indie, urban and Radio 2 boxes simultaneously, but the bulimic production reveals the complete lack of vision behind it. With no real personality to hold it upright it tartily staggers beneath the weight of its tacky accessories.
What you suspect the people behind ‘My Conscience And I’ will never understand is that Lily Allen is a character. Exciting and flawed, cocky and self-deprecating. Nicole, though, is 2D. You see, if you’ve got no blues, you’ve got no songs. Those Tabloid Queens may be more confused and desperate than Remi Nicole but, behind their make-up, they probably have far more soul.