The West

Lily gets personal
Lily Allen. Picture: Supplied

Lily Allen has 4.6 million followers on Twitter but the outspoken English pop star only follows 734 accounts.

In among the fake Lily Allens and the odd unofficial fan club - plus the accounts for Tabasco sauce, cricket commentator Geoffrey Boycott and Perth comedian Tim Minchin - are the usual high-profile figures any pop lover would follow: Madonna, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Adele, Justin Timberlake et al. And, erm, One Direction's Harry Styles.

Other denizens of Allen's Twitter feed - pop megastars Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and the new kid on the block, Lorde - are name-checked in Sheezus, the latest single and title track for the 29-year-old's third studio album, released last Friday.

"I love Lorde," Allen says from the warmth of her bed at home in the Gloucestershire countryside. "I mean, I don't think I'll ever be mature enough to write anything as grown-up as she does, and she's about half my age. I'm astounded by her. She's a force to be reckoned with."

More interesting is who did NOT make the cut among the pop divas battling for the Sheezus crown.

"Nobody's been left off intentionally," Allen insists. "I really wouldn't read too much into it. It was the people who jumped into my head while I was writing the song and the people that rhymed with something else."

Plenty of words rhyme with Pink and Britney Spears but the feisty mother-of-two won't discuss who is and isn't on the pop leaderboard.

Fame must seem such a cheap commodity to Allen, the daughter of comedian and actor Keith Allen, whose hell-raising antics are the stuff of legend. He was particularly fond of drinking at the infamous Groucho Club, a bar for London's creative elite that opened the same month and year Lily was born.

Allen follows the Groucho on Twitter, along with antique jewellery makers, fashion boutiques and high-end brands, such as Chanel, Dior and Lagerfeld.

No wonder Sheezus features the track Silver Spoon, where Allen admits she comes from money but denies being stuck-up or posh (speaking of which, Allen follows Victoria Beckham).

"You know what, to be honest," she sighs when asked why she penned the apology, "every song I write, the reason I write it is because I'm in the studio and I need to write a song.

"I don't sit there at night- time and go 'What should I write tomorrow?' It's usually just something that comes into my brain at that moment that might fit with that track.

"I wouldn't read too much into anything. Nothing's meant to be a grandiose statement or manifesto."

That answer is as prosaic as it is disingenuous. While the record company issued instructions (twice) not to ask Allen about her personal life, the details are all over the songs written and recorded in the studio with regular producer/collaborator Greg Kurstin.

While 2009 single Not Fair derided inadequate lovers, L8 CMMR celebrates husband Sam Cooper's bedroom talents.

"He probably would prefer not to have songs written about his sexual prowess," Allen laughs. "But that's what I do, write songs about my life and he's a big part of my life - so is having sex. There you go."

The flipside to the Kanye Wests and Vivienne Westwoods of Allen's Twitter feed are the local pizza parlour, Peppa Pig

Official and accounts for her daughters Ethel Mary Cooper, 2 1/2, and Marine Rose, 15 months, presumably to prevent cyber squatting.

The best material on Sheezus celebrates domestic life, including As Long as I Got You, which includes the line: "Staying home with you is better than sticking things up my nose."

Allen laughs that she's "up at five o'clock in the morning these days for very different reasons. And these five o'clock in the mornings are a hell of a lot more rewarding - more tiring but more rewarding".

While most of Sheezus is cheeky fun, the track Take My Place delves into her private pain. "That song is about losing a child, which is something that happened to me in the late stages of 2010," Allen says of her stillbirth in November that year.

"It was one of the first songs I wrote when I came back to songwriting and it was something that was, you know, occupying 95 per cent of my mind at that time. I didn't feel like I couldn't cover it on the album. That's what songwriting's meant to be, I think, some sort of catharsis.

"It was just how I felt then - and I still feel that way. It's not something that consumes me quite as much as it did at that point."

Take My Place is also a rare introspective moment among songs that take swipes at misogyny (lead single Hard Out Here) and online critics (URL Badman).

Living in the English countryside with a young family means that much of Allen's interaction with the outside world since her previous album, 2009's It's Not Me, It's You, has come via social media.

The F… You singer is one of the few artists who admits to reading what's being said about them online. She follows a lot of media on Twitter, ranging from music (NME, Spin and Pitchfork) to mainstream outlets and fashion commentators (E!'s Fashion Police).

"If I've put a new song out it's nice to see what people are thinking," says Allen, who also admits to being stung by criticism. "I think you'd be a psychopath if you weren't affected by negative feedback."

But, the singer says the feisty lyrics aren't always about what has happened to her. She's not always fighting the trolls.

"I find the way that some people behave on the internet unacceptable," Allen says. "What I do is social commentary. When I write URL Badman, I'm not thinking about people having slagged me off, I'm thinking about how people behave on the internet and the two things are very different.

"I am an egomaniac and I am slightly narcissistic, otherwise I wouldn't do this job. But it's not all about me."

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West