I don’t mind Lily Allen. In fact, as a teenager she was my style-icon, and I took to wearing thick gold earrings in homage to the woman. It’s fair to say it’s a look few can pull off – Pat Butcher, to name one.
So when Allen announced she had retired in 2010 to become a housewife, I was sad and perplexed. How someone with such an appetite for attention would find meaning in wiping up baby turd was quite beyond me. It wouldn’t last, I reasoned.
And it hasn’t. Just yesterday, after a two-year hiatus, newspapers confirmed the news that Lily Allen is back with a provocative new music video. The track, titled ‘Hard Out Here’, has been called a ‘scathing’ attack on misogyny in the music industry.
The video starts out quite promisingly from a narrative perspective: Allen is lying on an operating table, having some sort of plastic surgery. Her manager, who overlooks the operation, comments on how Allen has let herself go.
Discontent with such treatment, Allen springs off the table and bursts into a feminist rap. She finds herself transported into a music video, surrounded by female dancers in revealing leather outfits, gyrating and suggestively licking champagne bottles. Their whole point, it would seem, is to be as grotesque as possible in advertising their assets, and to force us all into experiencing ‘Bum Guilt’; to feel as though we are looking into Medusa’s eyes each time we see a bum.
But I’m a bit bummed at Allen’s parody; frankly, for a video about twerking, there just ain’t enough cheek. It’s no walk in the park satirising sexism in pop; but if you’re going to take on the challenge, then it needs to be original and intelligent.
The fact is, Allen’s parody isn’t the first of its kind; and yet, it hasn’t really delivered anything new. In 2006, P!nk did a far greater job in dealing with sexism with her song ‘Stupid Girls’. It has the most pedestrian of lyrics – ‘I don’t want to be a stupid girl’, anyone? But the video is packed with imagery that gives a far more lucid account of the anti-feminist horrors P!nk’s fighting against than Allen and her Bum Brigade ever could.
Yes, that Bum Brigade. Just what the point of it is, I don’t know. For starters, they all look like they’re having quite good fun performing their ‘sexist’ routine. Their dance just goes on and on and on, without any real point to it. ‘Oh look, here’s my bum wobbling. Doesn’t that show how bad sexism is?’ I don’t get it. But I’m sure teenage boys around the country will have appreciated the scenes in their own special way.
If Allen really wants to show people the absurdity of how women are treated in the music biz, she could have done something like Mod Carousel – who created a parody of ‘Blurred Lines’ this year, using men instead of female models. Their version is so unappealing and amusing that you cannot help but realise how ridiculous the original video for the song was.
I don’t know what can be done to combat sexism in pop music. My own theory is that eventually it will become terribly out of date to have semi-nude female singers and backing dancers. Just as the archaic lyrics Tom Jones’ ‘She’s a Lady’ and Tammy Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man’ sound laughable in this day and age, I am sure Robin Thicke and Pharrell will look deeply unfashionable in years to come. In fact, I think the main way in which to tackle Miley et al is to show them what sophistication is; as well as demonstrating that it can be had with success. If Allen can do that, then she’ll be well on her way to moving things forward for the girls.