There is something to be said about duality in everyday life, and I think that’s what may have been on Lily Allen’s mind when she co-wrote this song for her debut, a song originally released as a single in September of 2006. Her voice is absolutely and unabashedly ‘London’ on this track, which adds a layer of credibility to what is easily interpreted as something of a pessimistic outlook on living there.
The song is a series of vignettes, outlining the darker side of living in a place where so many are thrust together in close quarters in various states of desperation, not unlike Richard Thompson’s “The Sights and Sounds of London Town”, which covers similar thematic ground.
To me, this is the song of one who once had an idealized vision of her hometown which is embodied by the bouncy calypso style, soon to be let down by reality as reflected in the lyrics. In some ways, it’s sad to hear this story sung by someone so young that is basically about the cruelty of the world, even if that cruelty has a distinctive London air about it.
But, in other ways this is an encouraging tale. The song’s narrator is a young woman who is aware of her surroundings. The tone of the song is disappointment (illustrated very well in the video at the end, when her plans are cancelled by the unknown party on the other end of her cellphone conversation). But, this is a song about someone being relieved of her illusions. In this, it’s about a unique kind of liberation.
And to me, it’s encouraging that this song tells the story for so many young people in an otherwise numb state of being, not realizing that life can be so much better than it is. When disappointment of this kind is expressed, the fight for change is often not far behind.
For more information, check out the legendary Lily Allen MySpace page, which was the hub of her success as a mainstream artist working outside of mainstream marketing channels.