Allen released her second album, It's Not Me, It's You, in 2009, which saw a genre shift to synthpop, rather than the ska and reggae influences used in her debut album, Alright, Still (2006). The album debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and the Australian Albums Chart and was well received by critics, noting the singer's musical evolution and maturity. It spawned the hit singles "The Fear" and "Fuck You", popular mostly in Europe. Allen and Amy Winehouse were credited with starting a process that led to the media-proclaimed "year of the women" in 2009 that has seen five female artists making music of "experimentalism and fearlessness" nominated for the Mercury Prize.
In 2009, Allen announced that she would be taking a hiatus from musical activities. The following year, she opened a fashion rental shop named Lucy in Disguise with her sister Sarah, followed by the 2011 launching of her own record label. In 2013, Allen revealed that she had begun working on her third studio album Sheezus. On 20 June 2012, Allen tweeted that she was in the studio working with Greg Kurstin on new music. She changed her professional name from Lily Allen to Lily Rose Cooper. In August 2013, she changed her professional name back to Lily Allen and tweeted new music would be arriving "soon".
"Air Balloon" is described by Billboard as "more of a loopy lullaby than a slice of social commentary", with a nonchalant Allen singing, "Come meet me in the sky, I'll be waiting for you/And we can't hear what they say/Up in my air balloon, air balloon, air balloon." The song gets its toy piano arrangement, creaseless beat and offbeat Kurt Cobain shout-out partially from Shellback.
The official music video for "Air Balloon" was released on Allen's official channel on YouTube on 7 February without prior notice, after the release of new track "L8 CMMR" for HBO's hit drama Girls, and two weeks after the release of the official lyric video on the same channel. The video was directed by That Go (Noel Paul and Stefan Moore) and shot in Cape Town, South Africa and the county of Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom.
The video shows Allen singing in a green Safari field, changing the camera's POV, and launching the camera into space. She relaxes on a couch with a few middle-aged men, interacts with a zebra and a cheetah, and dances in a field of giant growing mushrooms. Allen is later shown floating in space with a giant crucifix (filmed as to make a reference to the name of her album, "Sheezus".).
The song received positive reviews from music critics, who praised the song for being catchy, although some criticised its similarity to that of the work of other artists, particularly M.I.A. Digital Spy awarded the song 3/5 stars, stating the songs hook is "packed to the brim with ear-snagging but nonsensical lyrics", but that it was lacking "the personal touch that usually makes Allen's songs so distinctive and relatable." Pure FM gave the song a positive review, awarding the song 4/5 stars and calling it an 'extremely infectious and catchy track."Rolling Stone called the song "a poppy, synth-heavy cut that shows off the singer's playful and funny sides."  The Mirror said the song was "completely infectious and memorable in the best way." The song was likened to M.I.A.'s 2008 hit "Paper Planes". Some people have gone as far as to call it a "rip-off", mainly due to the accent used in the introduction and the "na-na-na-na" hook, which M.I.A. regularly uses in her music. It is unclear whether this is intentional or not.