Monday, October 24, 2011

Why We Love Lily


Ever since I first heard Lily’s music on the ride home of an ill-fated trip to Montreal, the girl’s been on my radar. I’ve watched her morph from a Ghetto-Prepster Princess, sporting prom dresses, kicks, and larger-than life triangle hoop earrings, to Karl Lagerfeld’s IT-girl, posing as the face of Chanel’s Mademoiselle handbag line (can you say “tres chic?”).

More than any of her aesthetic choices, though, her music is what really got to me. I love her disregard for what’s trendy. She went from making a retro-ska album (Alright, Still) to an ethereal and atmospheric bubblegum POP album (It’s Not Me, It’s You) with the genius that is Greg Kurstin (if anyone can create the bubblegum sound of the future, it’s Greg).

Most of all, I adore her honesty, her ballsy lyrics. Out of the current crop of pop tarts, she was the first to tell like it is. Instead of constantly yapping, “Baby, I love you, I miss you, come ride in on your horse and do some moochy moochy with me,” she called the boys out (I’m so over female performers singing just another sad love song – no offense Toni Braxton). Lily writes about how much she enjoys hearing the boy who betrayed her cry on “Smile,” and so would I! In “Not Big” and “Not Fair,” she addresses the issue other pop gals are scared to – that a small penis is a MAJOR problem (sometimes the motion of the ocean doesn’t suffice). Also, has a creepy guy ever hit you on? YES, and thank the Lord and the Apostles Peter, Paul, and Mary that this chick talks about that in “Knock ‘Em Out” with the lines, “They’re like, ‘Alright.’ What ya saying, ‘Yeah can I take your digits?’ And you’re like, ‘No, not in a million years. You’re nasty. Please leave me alone.’” We’ve all been there.

On the rare occasion that Lily sings a love song, it’s beautiful and special. “Littlest Things” will make you cry when she coos, “I’d tell you sad stories about my childhood. / I don’t know why I trusted you, but I knew that I could. / We’d spend the whole weekend lying in our own dirt / I was just so happy in your boxers and your t-shirt…” Doesn’t that just melt your heart? Her words are utterly relatable. Whenever anyone’s relationship goes south, one dreams of the better days during the honeymoon phase.

In those instances, we often come to the difficult realization that getting out of the relationship might be the healthiest thing for us, especially when our significant others only seem to bring us down. With Greg’s soft piano and synths surrounding her gentle vocals, Lily encapsulates this sentiment in “I Could Say:”

                        You always made it clear that you hated my friends /
                        You made me feel so guilty when I was running ’round with them /
                        And everything was always about being cool /
                        And now I’ve come to realize there’s nothing cool about you at all

                        Since you’ve gone, I’ve lost that chip on my shoulder
                        Since you’ve gone, I feel like I’ve gotten older
                        Now you’re gone, it’s as if the whole wide world is my stage /
                        Now you’re gone, it’s like I’ve been let out of my cage

Ms. Allen speaks the truth. Sometimes, the best growth experiences come when we cut our losses and move on.

Girl/boyfriends may not be the sole perpetrators. Often, we find that the most toxic people in our lives are those we thought were friends. Lily perfectly captures this situation with “Friend of Mine.” On occasion, we let people into our lives who only weigh us down, talking about us behind our backs and playing on our insecurities. Really, though, they’re the insecure ones, telling others our deepest secrets and weaknesses to make themselves feel better. These supposed friends are actually bullies, and we’re better off without them.

Other times, we’re the bullies. In “Back to the Start,” Lily talks about her relationship with her sister, a figure in her life she was jealous of due to the sibling’s beauty, popularity, and general lovability. I’ve been similarly envious of some of my closest friends, so Lily’s lyrics deeply resonate with me. Frequently, we realize the error of our ways and, like Lily, hope for a second chance with the sibling or friend we love oh so much. We pray that we, too, can go “Back to the Start” and begin fresh, from scratch, without any animosity or resentment.

Clearly, love takes many forms. Unfortunately, in POP, we typically hear only one representation, between partners. It’s so refreshing that Lily writes songs about this emotion in different contexts, between friends, siblings, and parents-children. After a fight with my sister, it’s nice not having to attempt squeezing my remorse into Celine’s “Because You Loved Me.” (I heart you Celine! I just need a tad more variety.) Sometimes, we just miss our MOMMYs. Lily’s “Chinese” describes how I felt every time I left home to go back to college (of course, Lily was off to tour the world, but let’s forget the minutia, shall we?):

                        You wipe the tears from my eye /
                        And you say that all that it takes is a phone call /
                        I cry at the thought of being alone, and then /
                        I wonder how long it will take ’till I’m home again /

                        I don’t want anything more /
                        Than to see your face when you open the door /
                        You’ll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea /
                        And we’ll get a Chinese and watch TV

Just as a P.S. – by “a Chinese,” Lily means Chinese take-out (or take-away, as they say abroad). She and her mother don’t cuddle and bond over a newly adopted Asian baby. I figured I should clarify.

One of Miss Lily's many great qualities is that she isn’t afraid to tackle the bigger issues. She questions the existence of God in “Him,” societal hypocrisy and denial in “Everyone’s At It,” and the dubious policies of former U.S. President George W. Bush in “F*#% You.” She takes on political and beauty constructs in “Everything’s Just Wonderful.” Some of my favorite lines include “I wanna get a flat. I know I can’t afford it. / It’s just the bureaucrats who won’t give me a mortgage. / Well, it’s very funny cos I got your f*#%ing money / and I’m never gonna get it just because of my bad credit…” and “I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognaise / and not feel bad about it for days and days and days. / In the magazines, they talk about weight loss. / If I buy those jeans, I can look like Kate Moss…”

Lily puts all of herself (her opinions, her emotions, and her experiences) into her music. When she writes about weight struggles, it comes from personal experience. She’s admitted to being self-conscious about her body in interviews. She’s said that when everyone was complimenting her on her weight loss and she was seen on the cover of every magazine, she was actually bulimic. Some believe, including Lily, that POP stars ought not to be role models due to their battles with eating disorders, drug use, etc. However, I think Lily’s candor in publicly discussing these struggles is what makes her a great role model. She’s REAL. She’s truthful. This is why so many people connect with her. Too many POP stars create an illusory façade of perfection, hiding all their flaws. Lily puts her weaknesses out there, and that makes us more comfortable doing the same. When Princess Diana spoke publicly about her struggle with bulimia, the number of women in the UK who went to get help rose; they felt they weren’t alone, so their sense of shame dissipated. Therefore, I want to thank Lily for putting everything out in the open, thereby helping us absolve ourselves of our shame. You allow us to feel comfortable asking for help, too!

Furthermore, no one holds a mirror up to society better than Lily. In “The Fear,” the lead single off of her second album, Lily sings about her “fear” of British (although this could also apply to American) youth’s morals going askew. Instead of valuing intelligence, humanity, and family, children and adolescents focus on consumerism, outward beauty, and celebrity culture. What I appreciate most is that Lily doesn’t separate herself from the crowd she’s referring to. She realizes that she’s part of the problem as a “little pop star consumer,” herself. It’s this type of honesty that really strikes a chord with me.

Lily continues her reflective POP with “22.” This track reveals her feminist colors. It’s about a woman who spends her twenties enjoying herself by going out to nightclubs, socializing, and having a good time, as she should! Life’s a waste if you don’t actually LIVE it with a sense of pleasure. The sadness of the song is in its truth: upon reaching 30, which is obviously quite young, this woman realizes that numerous doors have closed. The same career opportunities that may have been available to her in her twenties no longer are. The woman’s only option is to wait for a knight in shining armor to come in and save her with a marriage proposal. “It’s sad, but it’s true,” which is how the song goes.

Lily may be a feminist, but don’t expect her to go burning her bra. She’s more open-minded than that. She believes in equal rights for women, and any minority, as is clear in her songs, but she also doesn’t look down upon women that choose to go the more traditional route by being housewives and stay-at-home mothers. As long as these women make such choices themselves, then all is good! In fact, Lily is one of these women. She is taking a long break from making music to stay at home with her new construction entrepreneur husband, Sam Cooper, and soon-to-be-born baby. Of course, Lily is a renaissance woman, so she finds other things to do with her time, such as writing the lyrics for the upcoming Bridget Jones’ Diary musical; running a high-end vintage shop with her older sister, Sarah Owen (for whom “Back to the Start” was written); and guest editing ES Magazine for the London Evening Standard. Read her article, “In Defense of the Housewife.” It’s smart and funny, just like her songs.

Lily hits all the right buttons. She’s so reflective and thoughtful. I love a good rack as much as the next gay man, but I wholeheartedly appreciate that Lily’s wit and emotion, rather than her boobs, are at the center of her music, a rarity in commercial POP. This may be why she’s not as prominent in the States as in the rest of the world. I am extremely proud and grateful to be an American, but I must say that we don’t appreciate a tablespoon of contemplativeness in our POP-cultural cake, and that’s our loss. There’s a place for LMFAO and Ke$ha, but I can’t listen to that all day. Someone like Lily is perfect because she wraps up heart and brainpower into a yummy little POP package that goes down silky smooth. She is THE pioneer of 21st century progressive POP, the voice of OUR generation. 

We will miss hearing you in our ear buds, Miss Lily Rose Cooper (her new married name!), but we understand and respect that you’re moving in a different direction at this point in your life. We wish you and your growing family all the best. Maybe, one day, we shall meet again. Until then, your brilliant catalog will keep us inspired.

Muah! Big Kiss! XOXOXOXOXO




  1. that's what i feel and think! i love her,she's my favourite singer, my role model and my hero!
    i personally think she's the best songwriter ever...and she's so beautiful

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