Lily Allen has openly admitted she had little love or connection to her 2014 record Sheezus, a label-mandated collection of lifeless synth pop. It sparked somewhat of a quarter-life crisis for the UK singer, who turned to alcohol and drugs in the wake of its release, leading to the breakdown of her marriage in 2016.
That divorce is the backbone of much of No Shame, Allen's fourth album. It's her most personal work to date, turning the torch away from witty societal observations towards her own behaviour. Allen's rawness and vulnerability shines through via both her stunning voice (and its honeyed falsetto) and her matter-of-fact lyrics.
What's most refreshing is that No Shame sounds entirely like Allen's property. It's almost completely devoid of an obvious chart-topping single apart from the sunny, trap-influenced Trigger Bang, a welcome deep breath after Sheezus, and she shows off her ability to turn a cutting turn of phrase into a brilliant hook right from first track Come on Then ("If you go on record saying that you know me/Then why am I so lonely?/Cos nobody f***ing phones me").
She's let down by a few lazy moments, which leave a listener questioning the album's length; a number of the 14 tracks feel superfluous next to the record's stronger parts. What You Waiting For is an uninspired dance-reggae tune, while penultimate track Pushing Up Daisies is a noisy clash of video game and gospel elements, dimming the effects of the album's optimistic finish.
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But Allen comfortably flaunts a range of new talents throughout. Higher is her most stripped-back track to date, a folk-meets-trip-hop vehicle for her flawless voice. She jumps over to chamber pop on the affecting Everything to Feel Something, a devastating deconstruction of the catatonic numbness brought on by heartbreak; Allen details the loss of her sense of self over a blend of stunning melodies and a swirling piano riff. Allen has recovered from a career waver in style – and while No Shame may test the patience, its authenticity is too charming to let fans down.
Lily Allen, No Shame
Artist: Lily Allen
Album: No Shame
Label: Warner Music
Verdict: A faulty machine, ultimately saved by Lily Allen's cutting honesty