Certain Songs #928: Lily Allen – “The Fear”

Album: It’s Not Me, It’s You
Year: 2009

Lily Allen is probably my favorite of the post-millennial pop stars.

An unique combination of big shiny pop hooks, smart-ass lyrics and the kind of cheerful cheekiness that only Brits can ever get away with, Lily Allen put it all together on her second album, 2009’s It’s Not Me, It’s You.

On her best song, the etherial “The Fear,” she sends up the pop stars and celebs of her generation for their supreme superficiality while not fully excluding herself from the equation.

So the bouncy, light-hearted verses are all braggadocio, laying out her goals and just how she’s going to achieve them.

I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever, I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they are trying to find them

And I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless
‘Cause everyone knows that’s how you get famous
I’ll look at The Sun and I’ll look in The Mirror
I’m on the right track, yeah, I’m on to a winner

But then “The Fear” switches gears as it rolls into its chorus, where Allen — both in and out of character — admits that maybe she’s not really going the right direction for a rich, fulfilling life.

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
When do you think it will all become clear
‘Cause I’m being taken over by the fear

Needless to say, this is all set to incredibly catchy post-millennial pop, synths glistening like blood diamonds and beats programmed for maximum dancing, which to me is one more tension that makes “The Fear” so great: the superficiality of the music vs the smarts of the lyrics.

And I am a weapon of massive consumption
And it’s not my fault
It’s how I’m programmed to function

But you get the sense that she only halfway believes that it’s society’s fault, that for all of her bad behavior in real life, she’s too clever to truly believe that.

In any event, “The Fear” was a massive #1 in the U.K, though it didn’t do so well here for some reason. Maybe we don’t like our huge pop songs to be so contradictory. Or so British, for that matter.

Official Video for “The Fear”

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