Album review: Lady Sovereign
Lady Sovereign is trouble. Just ask the Yanks. Within a couple of years, she went from having Jay-Z shut down Times Square for the album launch of Def Jam’s “new Eminem”, to public enemy number 265, slagging off New York while onstage in the same city and, later, spitting on a stage invader dressed as
a doughnut. You just don’t desecrate America’s national snack like that. In the last few months she’s been dumped by Def Jam, and called a “twat” by US gossip dickhead Perez Hilton. Basically, Our Sov’s a legend.
So this new album is a timid apology to the families she offen… nah, unsurprisingly it’s a big flicked V at everyone. Her time over the Atlantic hasn’t spurred any glossy reinvention; this is out on her own label and uses her first producer Medasyn: evidence of her determination to be seen as the same prickly little council estate MC.
The sound is wilfully lo-fi and grimy and dares you to disapprove. Duly, Robert Smith apparently hates her cribbing of ‘Close To Me’ for the recent single ‘So Human’, and here on the album, it truly seems like a shocking betrayal of one of The Cure’s most beloved hits. Good. It’s brilliantly brattish the way a terrible, cheap keyboard sound desecrates the original, as she drawls blandly over the top, “Doesn’t it feel much bettah/When you’ve had a bettah day than yesterday?” This is what music’s all about: pissing off old folk.
‘Let’s Be Mates’ is a similarly slouchy: “You like monkeys, I like monkeys… let’s get acquainted, you’re simple, I like it”. With casual electro flourishes and a great chorus, it seems to shrug off its aceness. ‘Bang Bang’, meanwhile, has her turn into a UK Lady Gaga, all Costcutter electro-glam. And rather than get her Gucci-stamped front bottom out in order to ‘reclaim’ her femininity, Lady Sov simply stares the chattering classes down: “Won’t catch me in a dress, hands off of my breasts… now who are you to try and rule my world now?” ‘I Got You Dancing’ is nasty grime with robot vocals and sees her deciding not to breakdance in case she breaks her arms. It balances menace with gags, while the paranoid ‘Pennies’, about people ripping her off, just plumps for pure menace.
‘Food Play’ is mucky, a hilariously snotty parody of Barry White lurve records. As she and her man get the Häagen-Dazs out, Lady Sov kind of ruins the mood by rapping, “You make my nips hard just like cherry pips/And you can make me hit them high notes like Mariah Carey hits/And we can share our pie and chips”. She wants to rub your face in her world and it’s hard not be won over by her glorying in her underclass, outsider status. Especially when she works it to hilarious effect on ‘Student Union’ as she’s bewildered by “the geeks galore”, and sings a mocking, Britpoppy chorus which goes, “I was dragged to the Student Union bar/It was crap at the Student Union bar”.
Amid all this antagonism, the title track comes as a surprise. Our Sov shows an emotion other than anger, and sings, “My heart is like a jigsaw puzzle/Pick it up and fix it for me”. There’s even bloody violins on it! It’s her ‘Dry Your Eyes’ and is all the more affecting for showing the vulnerability beneath her ’tude. “Didn’t mean to scream and shout, but won’t you forgive me now?” she sweetly asks to her fleeing fella.
There’s more to Our Sov than meets the eye then, and there’s more to this album than simple class tourism. This is often quite brilliant genre-busting music from a girl who makes a mockery of Lily Allen’s status as the voice of ‘ordinary’ Britain. Those poor Americans will be clutching their fanny packs in fear.