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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Lily Allen, "It's Not Me, It's You" (Capitol) [3.5 STARS]

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In 2006, the charmingly bratty English singer Lily Allen started the year as an unknown posting songs on her MySpace page and ended it as a bona fide pop star, eventually selling 2.5 million copies of her debut album, "Alright, Still." That disc boasted a unique and instantly appealing sound that merged the slick European café pop of the early '60s with a more modern dance sensibility, but its real strength was Allen's larger-than-life personality: Here was a distinctively funny, sassy and honest woman cheerfully one-upping the boy who'd done her wrong by brutally mocking his shortcomings.

The question hanging over the follow-up was whether the 23-year-old star could possibly do it again, now that she's gotten her own talk show in the U.K. and reached a level of gossip-column ubiquity there akin to Paris Hilton in the U.S. Working with producer Greg Kurstin, Allen has crafted a much less retro, much more electronic sound on "It's Not Me, It's You," though there are still unexpected detours around the globe, including hints of country in "Not Fair" and polka in "Never Gonna Happen." And that trademark sass is back in full force, whether the singer is leveling both barrels at George W. Bush (bluntly telling the former President "F--k You" while borrowing a hook from the Carpenters), the war on drugs ("Why can't we all just be honest/Admit to ourselves that everyone's on it,") and the Almighty ("I don't imagine he's ever been suicidal/His favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival").

The big surprise is that far from being tapped out of ideas or over-exposed, Allen has only begun to reveal her many sides, and one of the disc's strongest moments comes when she drops the sarcasm to deliver the surprisingly moving and simple love song "Who'd Have Known." She also proves that her spirited exuberance is so appealing, she's hard to resist even when she's singing about nothing more than walking the dog, watching TV and ordering takeout ("Chinese").

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on February 4, 2009 2:43 PM.

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