Lily Allen has never been particularly kind to other women, slagging off female pop stars such as Girls Aloud and Katy Perry.
Allen's song ‘Cheryl Tweedy’, with its lyric wishing she ‘looked just like’ the Girls Aloud star, was pure tongue in cheek. Just in case Tweedy hadn't realised, Allen (right) made sure that she learnt the ‘compliment’ was intended to be sarcastic with follow-up and very public digs. Then there is the way that Allen giggles onstage, even at the less-than-girlish age of 23. It's just the kind of obvious pandering to male attention that rubs other women up the wrong way, as are her titillating suggestions to her audiences that she might “accidentally” fall out of her corset top.
But could it be that Allen is amending her ways and becoming more of a friend to fellow women? Her new album, It's Not Me, It's You, seems to be directed at women, for them to identify with and nod along knowingly to. Men, meanwhile, are its frequently ridiculed subject matter.
When the pop starlet burst out of MySpace, it was her wry and blunt lyrical observations that made her famous. Now her tales of love and relationships, which never try to glamorise, will make the listener cringe with recognition. Most twentysomething women will identify with at least one of the songs from her new album.
I pity the subject of Never Gonna Happen, the lingering, obsessive ex-lover who just won't take the hint, and gets labelled a “fool”. I can hear the chuckles of familiarity in response to Allen's blunt and derisive rebuttal of a man whose pride makes it difficult for him to accept “no” for an answer. In her contemporary world of equality in relationships and sex, Allen shows that women can have the upper hand, too: “Now, I know you feel betrayed, but it's been weeks since I got laid ... But I don't understand what else a girl in my position's to do”.
Even more so, I pity the boyfriend of It's Not Fair, who appears to be perfect but turns out to be cr*p in bed (“You're supposed to care/But you never make me scream”), to whom she directs the album's most humiliating and biting line: “I look into your eyes, I want to get to know you/ And then you make this noise and it's apparent it's all over.”
While the Natalie Imbruglias and Kelly Clarksons of the pop world consistently depict women as needy and helpless in love, it's not often you get the female perspective on bad lovers. And, though Allen does show her vulnerable side in I Could Say, most likely a song about her ex-boyfriend Ed Simons of The Chemical Brothers, she's clear that she's better off without him: “Since you've gone I've lost that chip on my shoulder/Now you're gone it's like I've been let out of my cage.”
Women, on the other hand, are recipients of her understanding. There is sympathy for the woman who parties away her twenties and is all washed up by 30 in 22, a gorgeous song in which Allen abandons her usual deadpan, laconic delivery. What's more, she apologises to an old female friend for being a terrible girlfriend in Back to the Start. She's not content with any old casual apology; instead she admits her unkindness is a result of her own catty jealousy: ‘You always were and you always will be the taller and the prettier one/People seem to love you/They gravitate towards you/That's why I started to hate you so much.’
Recognising a flaw is halfway to solving it. It's a sign that Allen is finally putting her acrimonious attitude towards other women behind her.
She might not be a feminist, but Lily Allen is that rare thing: a star who offers the usually unspoken female perspective on relationships, in songs with which women can identify intuitively.