September 5, 2009
Good Morning. What’s so special about Saturday morning? Depends on whether the Friday night before it was memorably forgotten… Art is said to imitate life, but it is an amazing moment when the imitation collapses in the presence of life as art. Much like that one strikingly familiar stranger from an otherwise forgettable Friday night, Lily Allen is that one perfectly imperfect artist — person — in an otherwise forgettable genre of overproduced pop stars — personas. Her understated introduction to the world, My First Mixtape, was that Saturday morning wake up from the flashy Friday night of Top 40 puffery. Fear not, all isn’t lost in the MySpace generation; for the ten thousand Tila Tequilas there is Lily Allen: the reason, that just so happens to rhyme with silly. Now be polite and allow me to reintroduce herself…
My First Mixtape is a taste of why Rolling Stone said “Lily Allen is not just a pop star. She’s a genre.” Vis a vis, Allen’s albums don’t call for reviews; they call for dissertations.
The Sound: At the most basic level, MFM is a most sonically pleasing journey through music. Allen seamlessly moves from Cutty Ranks to Kenny Roberts, from More Fire Crew to the Specials; but like Bjork and basketball, I’m not sure how it works, but damn if it doesn’t work well — who knew ODB and CCR could be the new PB&J? Lily — that’s who. My First Mixtape is music that can be thoroughly enjoyed for music’s sake. It isn’t rushed, it isn’t laborious or over done; it is what it is. The sonic journey is an eclectic one, and even at the most surface level it leads the listener to believe there is so much more beneath that shell.
The Story: MFM’s tracklisting tells a story about the artist, as well as her social canvas. Take the first six tracks: Allen’s own “LDN,” Dizzee Rascal’s “Fix Up Look Sharp,” Beats Int’l’s “Dub Be Good to Me,” Allen’s “Smile,” Ludacris’ “The Potion,” and DJ Premier’s “Pop Shots” ft. ODB. “LDN” takes you on a stroll around London town through the eyes of Lily. The premise of the song, When you look with your eyes, everything looks nice/But when you look twice, you can see it’s all lies. In London, no matter how shiesty, shady, or downtrodden you are, always maintain face: so do like Dizzee, and “Fix Up, Look Sharp.”
Mr. Rascal speaks from first-hand experience; he knows that in public – but especially in personal relationships — you have to save face. Perception breaks from reality, but when it does you only answer to those that matter. The ones that matter, don’t mind what you do to the others – so long as you just be good to them.
Still, break-ups happen; when they do, sure you’ll shed a few tears – and vinyls – feel bad for awhile, then, you’ll just smile… though, Lily’s road to recovery from a broken heart leans more towards the kill than kindness. Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn; and Lily’s potion must’ve been exactly what Miles Davis was eluding to when he created Bitches’ Brew. Like Luda, Lily grew a bit of a backbone over the years, When I was little ain’t nobody like me so they wanna fight me fight me; try to step to me now but it ain’t likely. Since those days, she’s learned to pop shots. So it is, and here we are.
The Social Relevance: Port O’Brien once said, “We’re the 21st century rendition of 1969. It’s one thing to act uncertain, it’s another to imitate. They’re closing down the music, and the music it has to wait.” We are a digitized, abridged, artificial remake of American creative culture’s capstone year. In the midst of uncertainty as to how to brand ourselves – seeing as brand loyalty and consumerism are at the crux of any possible cultural identity – or what it is about our generation that is authentic, we use that uncertainty to imitate instead of innovate. Our music is our voice, it is the most primal and basic human expression; at the heart of our humanity is an auto-tuning vocoder machine. Technology is to blame for hyper-commoditizied music, and an artificial “renaissance;” but Lily and her First Mixtape hold technology to credit for her hustle and come-up, thanks MySpace. For better and worse: we are the 21st century rendition of 1969, and Allen is pop music’s angel of our better nature – she waits for no one, except the music.
All of this is to say “Ello there.” What better way to introduce myself to this music blog than with my idea of an ideal musical introduction. Like Allen’s point with My First Mixtape, my point of view is that it isn’t about me – it’s about my mindset of, and in the midst of, music completely.
But really My First Mixtape is a plug for the site. As true genius requires insanity, Lily wishes she “had qualities like sympathy, fidelity, sobriety, sincerity, humility – Instead I got lunacy.” Incredible.
Tracklist: LDN – Lily Allen Fix up Look sharp – Dizzee Rascal Dub be Good to Me – Beats International Smile – Lily Allen The Potion – Ludacris Pop Shots – DJ Premier Taxi Fare – Mr Vegas Who Say Meh Dun – Cutty Ranks She Taught me How to Yodel – Kenny Roberts Born on the Bayou – Creedance Clearwater Revival Get Out my Life Woman – Lee Dorsey Stay with Me – Rod Stewart Up the Junction – Squeeze Knock em Out – Lily Allen Go DJ – Jammin (zinc) Drifting – Jammin (zinc) OI -More Fire Crewwwwww Friday Night Saturday Morning – The Specials Who’s the Bad Man – Dee Patten Joe Le Taxi – Vanessa Paradis (sorry) Silly Games – Janet Kay Cheryl Tweedy – Lily Allen Incredible – M Beat ft General Levy