Alright, Still

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Alright, Still
Young woman, with her hair up wearing a skirt and top, sits among many drawings of cultural objects.
Studio album by Lily Allen
Released 14 July 2006 (2006-07-14)
Recorded 2004–2006
Genre Pop, ska, reggae
Length 37:12
Label
Producer
Lily Allen chronology
Alright, Still
(2006)
It's Not Me, It's You
(2009)
Singles from Alright, Still
  1. "Smile"
    Released: 3 July 2006
  2. "LDN"
    Released: 25 September 2006
  3. "Littlest Things"
    Released: 11 December 2006
  4. "Alfie"/"Shame for You"
    Released: 5 March 2007

Alright, Still is the debut studio album by British pop singer-songwriter Lily Allen, released on 14 July 2006 by Regal Recordings. After being rejected by several labels Allen signed to London Records who eventually lost interest in Allen leading her to meet Future Cut and sign to Regal records. Recording for the album began in 2004 with sessions between Allen and production duo Future Cut, and Allen's work garnered publicity on the Internet as she posted demos to her MySpace account before they were officially released. Allen later traveled to America to work with Greg Kurstin and Mark Ronson, to complete the final half of the album in 2006.

"Alright, Still" is predominately a pop album, with songs that are heavily influenced by Jamaican ska music,[1] reggae and hip hop. The albums lyrical content discuss past relationships and a dark sense of humor, the lyrics are conversational and farcical. Because there are many instances of strong language in a great majority of the album's songs, it was released with a Parental Advisory warning, though the song "Friday Night" remains censored on all versions of the album.

Upon release "Alright, Still" received acclaim from the British music press, with international critics calling the record and Allen "original". It was commercially successful in the United Kingdom, where it debuted at number two on the UK Album chart and was later certified 3× Platinum. Alright, Still has sold over 6 million copies worldwide. The album earned a nomination for Best Alternative Music Album at the 50th Grammy Awards. The album was promoted by the release of four singles including the number one single "Smile" and top ten song "LDN".

Background[edit]

When her family went to Ibiza on holiday, Allen told her mother that she was staying with friends but remained in Sant Antoni de Portmany instead. She earned money by working at a Plastic Fantastic record store and dealing ecstasy.[2] Allen met her first manager, George Lamb in Ibiza.[2] She was rejected by several labels, which she attributed to her drinking and being the daughter of Keith Allen. She eventually used her father's connections to get signed to London Records in 2002.[3] When the executive who had signed her left, the label lost interest and she left without releasing the folk songs[which?] many of which were written by her father.[3][4][5] She then studied horticulture to become a florist, but changed her mind and returned to music. Allen began writing songs, while her manager introduced her to production duo Future Cut in 2004. They worked in a small studio in the basement of an office building.[5]

Development[edit]

Allen's manager introduced her to production duo Future Cut in 2004. They worked in a small studio in the basement of a Manchester office building.[6] In 2005, Allen was signed to Regal Records; the label gave her £25,000 to produce an album, though they were unable to provide much support for it due to their preoccupation with other releases such as Coldplay's X&Y and virtual band Gorillaz' Demon Days.[7]

Allen created an account on Myspace and began posting demos in November 2005.[7] The demos attracted thousands of listeners, and 500 limited edition 7" vinyl singles of one of the demos, a song titled "LDN", were rush-released and sold for as much as £40.[7][8] Allen also produced two mixtapesMy First Mixtape and My Second Mixtape — to promote her work; they included tracks by the band Creedence Clearwater Revival, and rapper Dizzee Rascal, and Ludacris. As she accumulated tens of thousands of MySpace friends, The Observer Music Monthly (OMM), a magazine published in The Observer, took interest.[8] Few people outside of her label's A&R department had heard of Allen, so the label were slow in responding to publications who wanted to report about her.[7]

In March 2006, OMM published an article about Allen's success through MySpace, and she received her first major mainstream coverage appearing in the magazine's cover story two months later. The popularity of her songs convinced her label to allow her more creative control over the album and to use some of the songs that she had written instead of attempting to work with mainstream producers. Allen found herself distracted by the publicity, so to focus on finishing the album, she traveled to the United States to work with producers Greg Kurstin and Mark Ronson. There, she was able to complete the second half of the album in approximately two weeks.[7]

The album's title is used in a line from the second track, "Knock 'Em Out": "You look alright still, yeah what's your name?" Allen borrowed the phrase from a slang term that her brother Alfie Owen-Allen and his friends used as a synonym for cool. She stated that she liked Albert Einstein's aphorism "Nothing changes until something moves" and the idea that "everything is [alright] as long as it's still".[9]

Music and lyrics[edit]

The first song released as a single, featuring a ska sample of "Reggae Merengue".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

In her songs, Allen develops various personas.[10] She stated that she tried to "write about stuff that happens to people from all different backgrounds". The lyrics are conversational, with a dark sense of humour.[2] In many of the songs, one of Allen's personae disparages someone around her.[11] In "Smile", "Not Big", and "Shame for You", she insults an ex-boyfriend.[12] In "Knock 'Em Out", she mocks suitors at a bar, and Lily reprimands her brother Alfie on the song of the same name.[13]

Joe Strummer, a close friend of Allen's father Keith, played mixtapes of Brazilian music and Jamaican reggae and ska when she was young. Allen stated that she had "always been into very black music" such as ska, reggae, and hip hop music. Since she did not know how to rap, she chose to use reggae as a point of reference when making Alright, Still.[14] The album's music blends ska and reggae with pop melodies.[15] Allen's melodies are influenced by the jazz improvisation techniques of American singers Blossom Dearie and Ella Fitzgerald.[16] The album's beats are influenced by various genres such as jazz and grime.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (79/100)[17]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[12]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[18]
The Observer 5/5 stars[2]
musicOMH 4/5 stars[19]
NME (7/10)[20]
Pitchfork (8.3/10)[11]
Robert Christgau A−[15]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[21]
Slant Magazine 1.5/5 stars[22]
Spin (8/10)[23]
Stylus Magazine D[24]

Alright, Still received acclaim from the British music press. The album holds a score 79 out of 100 based on 27 critical reviews which indicates "generally favorable reviews", according to the music review aggregator Metacritic.[17] The Observer's Rosie Swash stated that Allen's "uniquely acidic brand of pop" music justified the publicity it generated and that "the icing on the cake is that brutally barbed tongue".[2] Ron Webb wrote for Drowned in Sound that the album "is almost a brilliant record, easily a good one and one that promises to divide opinion like Marmite".[25] In a review for The Guardian, Sophie Heawood stated that "the album is rough round the edges, that amateurism serves to bring the listener in", noting that it gave the album a more personal touch.[26] The NME's Priya Elan remarked that "with a personality this size, this isn't the last time you'll be hearing from [Allen]".[20]

The album generally received positive reviews from international music press. Rob Sheffield wrote for Rolling Stone that Allen's sense of irony was "just more proof that [she's] an original".[21] Heather Phares of Allmusic stated that "enough of Alright, Still works — as pure pop and on the meta level Allen aims for — to make the album a fun, summery fling, and maybe more".[12] Praising Allen for her "genuine personality with wit and attitude to spare", Pitchfork's Mark Pytlik remarked that the album "isn't anything else but a fantastic success".[11] In his review for Blender, Jon Dolan complimented Allen's "little-sisterly" personality, describing it as a combination "of panache and self-doubt, courage and chaos".[13]

On the other hand, Stylus Magazine called the album "nothing more than pop for people who hate pop music" and "phony music for people who can't let go of their inhibitions,"[24] while Slant Magazine deemed it "rubbish" and called Allen "sickeningly contemptuous."[22] The mastering of Alright, Still, done by Tim Burrell and Tim Debney, has been criticised. In January 2007, The Guardian ran a piece about loudness wars, the practice of increasing the loudness of tracks which often results in distortion and the loss of dynamic range. It included Alright, Still in a list of CDs in which sound quality was compromised for loudness.[27] Rolling Stone published a similar story in December 2007, and it also identified Alright, Still as an album "so unrelentingly loud that the sound is actually distorted".[28]

Accolades[edit]

The Guardian ranked it the seventh best album of the year and commented, "For her lyrical nous and her quick delivery alone, get that toast on."[29] Pitchfork called it "one of 2006's most enduringly rewarding pop albums" and listed it as the twenty-ninth best album of 2006.[30] "Rolling Stone" ranked the album thirteenth on its list of the best albums of 2007.[31] Uncut called it "a terrific, bolshy, eclectic stew of London street pop", listing Alright, Still thirty-eighth on its "Definitive Albums of 2006".[32] The "Observer" ranked the album tenth on its list of the best albums of 2006.[33] At the 2008 Grammy Awards, the album was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album but lost to The White Stripes' Icky Thump.[34] Ronson's production on "Littlest Things" helped him win a Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.[35]

Commercial performance[edit]

Alright, Still was commercially successful in the United Kingdom. In late July 2006, it debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart. The album dropped off the chart after nearly eleven months but reentered the chart twice, spending a total of sixty-nine weeks on the chart.[36] The British Phonographic Industry certified Alright, Still 3x platinum.[37] On the week ending on 28 January 2007, the top ten places on the UK Albums Chart were filled by British acts for the first time since the chart was established in 1956; Alright, Still was number nine that week.[38] on 14 March 2008 Alright Still was certified 3× platinum by BPI denoting retail shipments of over 900,000 copies, with retail sales close to 1 million in February 2009. In Ireland, the album debuted at number six on the Irish Albums Chart, and it spent a total of thirty-five weeks on the chart.[36] The Irish Recorded Music Association certified the album platinum.[39]

The album was less successful on the European mainland. It peaked in the top twenty in Norway; the top thirty in Belgium and Denmark; and the top fifty in Italy, France, and Sweden.[36] Alright, Still sold over one million copies throughout Europe.[40]

The album performed similarly worldwide, selling a total of nearly two million copies.[41] Two weeks after its American release, Alright, Still debuted at number twenty on the U.S. Billboard 200, and it remained on the chart for twenty-four weeks.[36] The Recording Industry Association of America awarded the album a gold certification for shipping 500,000 copies.[42] The album has sold more than 627,000 copies in the United States, as of November 2013.[43] Alright, Still debuted at number seven on the Australian ARIA Albums Chart and spent a total of sixteen weeks on the chart.[36] ARIA awarded the album a platinum certification.[44] In New Zealand, the album debuted at number twenty-six on 31 July 2006 and was certified Gold after nineteen weeks selling over 7,500 copies.

Promotion[edit]

Performing at "Solidays" on 7 July 2007

In 2007, she played the newly launched Park Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, replacing M.I.A. who had cancelled.[45] During the festival she reunited two members of The Specials, an act that guitarist Lynval Golding claimed played a "massive part" in the group's 2009 reunion.[46]

On the day "Smile" was released, Allen appeared on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge with DJ Jo Whiley, performing an acoustic version of "Smile", and a cover of The Kooks' song, "Naïve".[47] At the Secret Garden Party, in September 2006, Allen made a rendition of the song and afterwards stated: "The festival was well good, particularly as Lester, my ex, who I wrote 'Smile' about, and subsequently sold his story to the papers, had a tent called 'the shit tent' positioned directly opposite the main stage. So he and his new girlfriend had no option but to watch me perform to a couple of thousand people singing 'Smile' back to me. Oh, it's the little things eh!"[48] "Smile" was performed live as part of the setlist of Allen's 2007 concert tour.[49] During the 2007 South By Southwest music festival, Allen said "I'm so sick of this song, but I'll play it for you, Austin" before singing it.[50] On 3 February 2007, the singer was invited as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live and played this single and "LDN".[51]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Smile"  
Future Cut 3:17
2. "Knock 'Em Out"  
Future Cut 2:54
3. "LDN"  
  • Allen
  • Babalola
  • Lewis
  • Arthur "Duke" Reid
Future Cut 3:11
4. "Everything's Just Wonderful"  
Greg Kurstin 3:29
5. "Not Big"  
  • Allen
  • Kurstin
Greg Kurtsin 3:17
6. "Friday Night"  
Pablo Cook 3:07
7. "Shame for You"  
Blair MacKichan 4:06
8. "Littlest Things"  
Mark Ronson 3:02
9. "Take What You Take"  
  • Allen
  • Lewis
  • Babalola
Future Cut 4:06
10. "Friend of Mine"  
Future Cut 3:58
11. "Alfie"  
  • Allen
  • Kurstin
Greg Kurtsin 2:46

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Country Sales Certification
Argeintina 50,000+ Platinum[59]
Australia 35,000+ Gold[60]
Canada 50,000[61] Gold[61]
France 40,000+ Silver[62]
Ireland 20,000+ Platinum[39]
New Zealand 10,000+ Gold
United Kingdom 1.000,000+ 3× Platinum
United States 627,000[43] Gold[63]
Europe 1,000,000+ Platinum[64]

See also[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country Date Label Format Catalog
Europe 14 July 2006 EMI CD
United Kingdom 17 July 2006 Regal 0946 3 67028 2 7
Mexico 24 July 2006 EMI
Australia 29 July 2006 Festival Mushroom Records
Warner Bros.
3717392
Thailand 4 August 2006 EMI
Brazil 25 August 2006 EMI
Canada 19 September 2006 EMI 0946 3 71739 2 3
Japan 4 October 2006 Toshiba-EMI TOCP-66625
United States 30 January 2007 Capitol Records CDP 0946 3 75466 2 8

References[edit]

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  3. ^ a b "Me, my dad and Dumbo". London: Arts.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Lily Allen - Uncertain Smile, The Telegraph 16 January 2009
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  10. ^ Willman, Chris (12 March 2007). "Blooming Lily". EW.com. Retrieved 31 August 2008. 
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  12. ^ a b c Phares, Heather. Alright, Still at AllMusic. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
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  52. ^ Images for Lily Allen - Alright, Still
  53. ^ Images for Lily Allen - Alright, Still
  54. ^ Images for Lily Allen - Alright, Still
  55. ^ Connecting to the iTunes Store
  56. ^ Alright, Still: Amazon.co.uk: Music
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  60. ^ "ARIA Charts - Accreditations - 2009 Albums". Retrieved 4 June 2010
  61. ^ a b "CRIA Certified Awards Search". Canadian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  62. ^ "InfoDisc : Les Certifications (Albums) du SNEP (les Disques d'Argent)". Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 9 August 2011. 
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  64. ^ http://www.ifpi.org/content/library/platinum-europe-awards-2007.pdf

External links[edit]