Lily Allen

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Lily Allen
Lily Allen - Cropped.jpg
Allen in 2007
Born Lily Rose Beatrice Allen
(1985-05-02) 2 May 1985 (age 29)
Hammersmith, London, England
Other names Lily Rose Cooper (married name)
Occupation Singer, songwriter, musician, actress, presenter
Home town Islington, London, England
Spouse(s) Sam Cooper (m. 2011)
Children 2
Parents Keith Allen
Alison Owen
Relatives Alfie Allen (brother)
Sam Smith (cousin)
Kevin Allen (uncle)
Musical career
Genres
Instruments Vocals
Years active 2002–present
Labels
Associated acts Professor Green
Website lilyallenmusic.com

Lily Rose Beatrice Cooper[1] (née Allen; born 2 May 1985), known professionally as Lily Allen, is an English singer, songwriter, musician, actress and television presenter. She is the daughter of Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen. Allen left school when she was 15 and concentrated on improving her performing and compositional skills. In 2005, she made some of her recordings public on Myspace and the publicity resulted in airplay on BBC Radio 1 and a contract with Regal Recordings.

Her first mainstream single, "Smile", reached number one on the UK Singles Chart in July 2006.[2] Her debut record, Alright, Still, was well received, selling over 2.6 million copies worldwide and brought Allen a nomination at the Grammy Awards, BRIT Awards and MTV Video Music Awards. She began hosting her own talk-show, Lily Allen and Friends, on BBC Three.

Her second studio album, It's Not Me, It's You, saw a genre shift, having more of an electropop feel, rather than the ska and reggae influences of the first one. The album debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and the Australian ARIA Charts 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 have been credited with starting a process that led to the media-proclaimed "year of the women" in 2009 that saw five female artists making music of "experimentalism and fearlessness" nominated for the Mercury Prize.[3]

In 2009, Allen announced that she would be taking a hiatus from musical activities. During 2010, Allen opened a fashion rental shop "Lucy in Disguise" with her sister Sarah,[4][5] followed by the 2011 launching of her own record label.[6] In 2013, Allen revealed that she had begun working on her third studio album, which was later titled Sheezus. On 12 November 2013, Allen premiered the video for her first original song since 2009, "Hard out Here", which was released as a single five days later.[7]

Early life

Allen was born in Hammersmith, west London, daughter of Keith Allen, a Welsh-born comedian, and film producer Alison Owen.[8] She has an older sister, Sarah; a younger brother, Alfie Allen (who was the subject of her song "Alfie"); and a younger sister Rebecca.[citation needed] She has a number of half-siblings. She is the god-daughter of Wild Colonials vocalist Angela McCluskey.[9]

At the age of three, Allen appeared on The Comic Strip Presents... episode "The Yob",[10] which her father had co-written. When Allen was four years old, her father left the family.[11] During her early childhood, Allen lived with her family on a council estate.[12][13] They later settled in the North London borough of Islington. For a time, the family lived with comedian Harry Enfield while her mother dated him. The Clash singer and guitarist Joe Strummer was close to Allen. Allen has fond memories of the week and a half they spent together at the Glastonbury Festival as part of a regular collective centred on Strummer and her father. Strummer's musical past did not come into focus for Allen until after his death.[14]

She attended some of the UK's most expensive fee-paying public schools; Allen attended 13 schools in all, including Prince Charles's junior alma mater, Hill House School, Millfield, Bedales School[11] and was expelled from several of them for drinking and smoking.[13][15][16] When Allen was 11, former University of Victoria music student Rachel Santesso overheard Allen singing "Wonderwall" by Oasis in the school's playground; impressed, Santesso, who later became an award-winning soprano and composer, called Allen into her office the next day and started giving her lunchtime singing lessons. This led to Allen singing "Baby Mine" from Disney's Dumbo at a school concert.[17] Allen told Loveline that the audience was "brought to tears at the sight of a troubled young girl doing something good". At that point Allen said she knew that music was something she needed to do either as a lifelong vocation or to get it out of her system. Allen played piano to grade 5 standard and achieved Grade 8 in singing. She also played violin, guitar and trumpet as well as being a member of a chamber choir. Her first solo was "In the Bleak Midwinter."[14] Allen made an appearance as a lady-in-waiting in the 1998 film Elizabeth, which was co-produced by her mother. She dropped out of school at age fifteen, not wanting to "spend a third of her life preparing to work for the next third of her life, to set herself up with a pension for the next third of her life."[18]

Career

2002–05: Career beginnings

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.[18] Allen met her first manager, George Lamb in Ibiza.[18] 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.[19] 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.[14][19][20] 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.[20]

In 2005, Allen was signed to Regal Recordings; they 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 X&Y (Coldplay) and Demon Days (Gorillaz).[21] Allen then created an account on MySpace and began posting demos that she recorded in November 2005.[21] The demos attracted thousands of listeners, and 500 limited edition 7" vinyl singles of "LDN" were rush-released, reselling for as much as £40.[18][21] Allen also produced two mixtapes — My First Mixtape and My Second Mixtape — to promote her work. As she accumulated tens of thousands of MySpace friends, The Observer Music Monthly (OMM), a magazine published in The Observer, took interest in March 2006.[18] Few people outside of her label's A&R department knew who she was, so the label was slow in responding to publications wanting to report about her.[21] She received her first major mainstream coverage, appearing in the magazine's cover story two months later.

2006–08: Alright, Still and other endeavors

The success 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 forcing her to work with mainstream producers. Allen decided to work with producers Greg Kurstin and Mark Ronson, finishing the rest of the album in two weeks.[21] Allen's debut album, Alright, Still, was released in July 2006. Most of the tracks had been previewed on her MySpace page, including the singles "Smile", "LDN", "Knock 'Em Out", and "Alfie". In September 2006, "Smile" was made available on the United States version of iTunes Store. By December 2006, her music video for Smile had been played on various music channels as well as the song getting a little airplay. Entertainment Weekly named Alright, Still as one of the top 10 albums of 2006 despite the fact that it had not yet been released in the U.S. Allen also did several promotional ads for MTV as their Discover and Download artist of the month for January 2007. The album was released in the United States on 30 January 2007, landing at 20 on the Billboard Album Charts.[22] By January 2009, the album had sold 960,000 copies in the United Kingdom and 520,000 copies in the United States.[23]

Allen 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.[24] 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.[25] She also sang the vocals on the top ten single, "Oh My God", a cover of the Kaiser Chiefs song by Mark Ronson. The single, "Littlest Things" from Allen's album produced by Ronson, helped earn him a "Producer of the Year – Non Classical" 2008 Grammy Award.[26] She also provided background vocals to a couple of songs on the Kaiser Chief's third album in 2008. Allen won a 2008 BMI songwriting award for "Smile".[27]

Allen signed a one series contract to present her own BBC Three TV show titled Lily Allen and Friends based on the social networking phenomenon that helped to launch her music career.[28][29][30] Guests included Mark Ronson, Joanna Page, James Corden, Lauren Laverne, Roisin Murphy, Louis Walsh, and Danny Dyer.[31] The show attracted only 2 per cent of the total multi-channel audience despite a high-profile nationwide marketing campaign.[32] Citing Allen's rapid development as a TV host and her popularity among its target audience BBC Three announced it was renewing Lily Allen and Friends for a second season.[33] BBC Three controller Danny Cohen later said that the show would not air in the Spring of 2009 as originally scheduled because of music commitments.[34] Allen performed at a benefit concert for War Child, an international child protection agency that works with children affected by war. Backed by Keane, Allen sang "Smile" and "Everybody’s Changing".[35]

2008–11: It's Not Me, It's You and musical hiatus

After the release of her first album, her parent record company, EMI, was taken over by Terra Firma.[36] She also changed her management company from Empire Artist Management to Twenty-First Artists, although her core team remained in place. At the urging of her record company, Allen tried unsuccessfully to create the album with several writers and producers. Allen eventually returned to Greg Kurstin who had written three songs for Alright, Still.[14] The album was produced by Kurstin at Eagle Rock Studios in Los Angeles.[37] Before returning to Kus, Allen co-wrote the songs for the album with Kurstin who played piano on it. This is a change from her earlier work in which she wrote lyrics for finished tracks.[38] Allen released a statement saying "We decided to try and make bigger sounding, more ethereal songs, real songs ... I wanted to work with one person from start to finish to make it one body of work. I wanted it to feel like it had some sort of integrity. I think I've grown up a bit as a person and I hope it reflects that."[37] She posted two new song demos on her MySpace page and planned to release a mixtape to give her fans an idea of what the new direction was.[39][40][41][42][43][44]

Allen cancelled a scheduled appearance at the 2008 Isle of Wight Festival, telling festival promoter John Giddings the reason for the cancellation was that her album was behind schedule. Giddings said that the reason given was not acceptable and possibly a lie. Giddings decided not to sue her.[45] Photos of her drunk and topless in the Cannes Film Festival were also widely covered in the press.[46] Her appearance at the 2008 Glamour Awards also generated criticism, as she showed up intoxicated wearing a dress covered in decapitated Bambi figures, and had an on-stage, expletive-laced exchange with Elton John.[47][48][49] On 29 June 2008, Allen performed at the Glastonbury Festival alongside producer Mark Ronson. An emotional Allen dedicated her performance of "Littlest Things" to her grandmother who died the night before.[50] It's Not Me, It's You was first scheduled for an early 2008 release, but her miscarriage and creative issues delayed the release date to the autumn. During autumn 2008, EMI was undergoing restructuring. Due to this environment, a decision was made to move the album's eventual release date.[23][51] An online game, Escape the Fear, was created by Matmi as part of the viral marketing campaign targeted at people unaware of Allen or the album.[52] Since its release, "The Game" has topped the worldwide viral charts three times, including the week of Christmas—a highly contested time of the year. By 18 February 2009, "The Game" had been played over two million times.[53] The singer and The Clash guitarist Mick Jones performed The Clash’s song "Straight to Hell" on an album for the charity Heroes.[54]

Allen performing at the INmusic festival in Zagreb, Croatia, 24 June 2009

It's Not Me, It's You was released in February 2009. It debuted at the number 1 position in the UK, Canada, and Australia and the number 5 position in the United States.[37][55][56][57][58] The album has been certified platinum in the United Kingdom.[59] The release of the album was a factor in EMI’s more than trebling its earnings.[60] The first single from the album, "The Fear", was number 1 for the first four weeks in the UK after its release.[61][62] The second single released from the album, "Not Fair", reached the number 9 position.[63] She began her It's Not Me, It's You World Tour in March, touring throughout the next two years until September 2010. Her work on this album with Greg Kurstin earned her the Songwriters of the Year at the 2010 Ivor Novello Awards. In addition, she won with Kurstin Best Song Musically and Lyrically and Most Performed Work for "The Fear". Allen appeared overwhelmed by this recognition from what she considered "real awards".[64] In October 2010, Allen won her second BMI Pop Song Award by the United States music licensing organization Broadcast Music Incorporated for extensive United States radio airplay of her song, "The Fear".[65][66] Allen has been named the face of the National Portrait Gallery as part of the gallery's marketing campaign.[67] The picture was photographed by Nadav Kander emblazoned with the words, "Vocalist, Lyricist, Florist" .[68] Allen and Jamie Hince, guitarist for The Kills, raised £48,350 for the children’s charity The Hoping Foundation. The pair sang "Dream a Little Dream of Me" at a karaoke auction fundraiser.[69] Karl Lagerfeld, the head designer for Chanel personally hired and photographed Allen for a campaign to promote a luxury line of handbags due to launch in September 2009.[70][71]

In September 2009, Allen announced that she was considering a career in acting, that she would not renew her record contract, and that she had "no plans" to make another record.[72] In September 2010, she gave what would be her last performance for two and a half years, supporting Muse at Wembley Stadium in London, England.[73] She featured on the UK top five single, "Just Be Good to Green" by Professor Green in June 2010. Allen and her sister opened their own clothing store titled "Lucy in Disguise" on 15 September 2010. In November that year, she took legal action against Associated Newspapers, the parent company of the Daily Mail after the Daily Mail published photographs of her home, citing invasion of privacy and copyright infringement.[74] Allen did not entirely abandon music during the period she focused on starting her family. In January 2011, she launched her own record label, In the Name Of, with financial backing from Sony Music. The first act signed to the label was New York noise pop duo Cults.[6] The following month, she started writing songs for the musical version of Bridget Jones's Diary which was scheduled to open in London's West End in 2012.[75] Also in 2011, T-Pain used a verse from Allen's "Who'd Have Known" as the chorus to the song "5 O'Clock", which became the second single from his album Revolver. The song, which also features Wiz Khalifa, was released in September 2011, and reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it Allen's first Top 10 single in the United States.

2012–present: Sheezus

On 20 June 2012, Allen tweeted that she was in the studio working with Greg Kurstin on new music.[76][77] She later changed her professional name from Lily Allen to Lily Rose Cooper[78] and appeared on the track "True Love" on Pink's sixth studio album, The Truth About Love, released in September 2012.

Allen said in October 2012 that she was in the studio, "throwing shit in the wall and seeing if anything sticks ... It's great to work at my own pace with no commitments other than to make music."[79] In February 2013, she performed live at a Paris fashion show produced by Mark Ronson in what she called her "mumback", and foreshadowed the release of a new album "inspired by her experiences of motherhood" by the end of 2013.[80] In August 2013, she changed her professional name back to Lily Allen and tweeted new music would be arriving "soon".[81]

In November 2013, Allen recorded a cover of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" for the Christmas advert for the John Lewis department store.[citation needed] Released as a download single, it reached number one in the UK singles chart on 24 November. On 12 November 2013, Allen premiered the video for her new song "Hard Out Here" on her official website.[82] The song was released as a download the following week and entered the UK singles chart at number 9, giving Allen two simultaneous top 10 hit singles. On 13 January 2014, the song "Air Balloon" was premiered on BBC Radio 1 and will be released on 2 March 2014, as the second single from Allen's forthcoming third studio album Sheezus.[83][84]

Allen confirmed in an interview with BBC Radio 1 on 19 November 2013 that she is to perform at the 2014 Glastonbury Festival.[85] She also revealed that she has written a song for her upcoming album Sheezus inspired by a Twitter feud with Azealia Banks that happened in summer 2013.[86]

In December 2013, Allen was announced as one of the newest signees at Warner Bros. Records due to Warner Music Group acquiring Parlophone from Universal Music Group in May 2013.

In an interview with Graham Norton on The Graham Norton Show on 21 February 2014, Allen confirmed that her third studio album would be titled Sheezus, saying that it is "a little nod to Kanye West".[87] The album was released on 5 May 2014.[88]

Personal life

Allen is a cricket fan and has appeared on Test Match Special.[89] Allen began dating musician Ed Simons of the Chemical Brothers in September 2007, and in December, Allen announced that she and Simons were expecting a child.[90] Allen suffered a miscarriage in January 2008.[91] Following five months of dating, Allen's relationship with Simons ended soon after her miscarriage. Allen has stated that she spent three weeks in a psychiatric clinic due to depression following the miscarriage.[92]

Allen performing at Solidays 2007

In July 2009, Allen began dating Sam Cooper, a builder and decorator.[93] On 5 August 2010, Allen announced that she was pregnant with her and Cooper's first child,[94] later confirmed to be a boy[95] due early in 2011.[96] She experienced complications early in the pregnancy, including "about a week and a half of really heavy bleeding."[97] In late October, six months into her pregnancy, Allen contracted a viral infection which caused her to suffer a stillbirth, announced on 1 November.[98][99][100] On 6 November, Allen was admitted to the hospital, where she responded well to treatment for septicaemia.[99][101] Allen and Cooper became engaged over the Christmas holidays in December 2010 while on holiday in Bali.[102] They wed on 11 June 2011 at St. James church in Cranham, Gloucestershire, England. The designer of Allen's wedding dress confirmed she was several months pregnant on the wedding day.[103] Allen gave birth to a daughter, Ethel Mary,[104] on 25 November 2011.[105] She gave birth to her second child, daughter Marnie Rose, on 8 January 2013.[106]

She is third-cousin with singer Sam Smith.[107]

Politics

Although the singer is a staunch supporter of the Labour Party,[108] she was credited with helping inspire a parliamentary rebellion against former Prime Minister Gordon Brown when she wrote to all Members of Parliament asking them to back an amendment to an energy bill.[109] She later confirmed her support for the Labour Party and then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in particular.[110]

After the British government's plans to implement a three-strikes policy for file sharing copyright infringement, Allen came out in support for disconnecting repeat offenders.[111][112] Creating a blog titled "It's Not Alright" against file sharing, it subsequently came to light that she had copied text directly from the Techdirt website of an interview with 50 Cent, without attribution.[113] This led to an exchange on the World Wide Web, which culminated in accusations being made that Allen had infringed on other artists' copyrights by creating mix tapes early in her career, that she then made available via her website.[114][115] A group of supporters of filesharing launched a denial of service attack dubbed Operation Payback that shut down Allen's website and targeted other critics.[116]

On 1 October 2009, Allen and several other musicians released the world's first digital musical petition aimed at pressuring world leaders attending the December 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen. The petition included a cover of the song "Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil.[117]

Controversies

Allen performing at Solidays in 2007

Due to her outspokenness, Allen was the subject of many controversies early in her career. Disparaging remarks about musicians Luke Pritchard of The Kooks, Bob Geldof,[118] Amy Winehouse,[119] Kylie Minogue,[120] and Katy Perry[121] have all garnered minor press attention. She later said that making fun of other pop stars was a result of a lack of confidence, saying "I felt like 'Oh God, I'm short, fat, ugly and I hate all these people who flaunt their beauty.'"[122]

On 28 June 2007, Allen was arrested in London for allegedly assaulting photographer Kevin Rush while she was leaving a nightclub in London's West End. Prior to this, she had expressed discomfort with attention from the paparazzi on her Myspace blog.[123] By February 2009 she had stopped addressing controversies about herself on her blog because she found it "boring when people just pick stuff up and write about it. People get hurt, people get upset."[124] In September 2009, she shut down her Myspace account and stopped social networking completely in December due to the abuse she was taking.[125] In May 2009, French football magazine So Foot published a fake interview in which Allen was quoted as making derogatory remarks about David and Victoria Beckham and Ashley and Cheryl Cole. Some of the material was reprinted in the British tabloid The Sun. Both publications later apologized and paid damages to Allen.[126]

In August 2012, Allen was accused of racism after writing "I hate it when black cab drivers spend the entire journey on the phone. I WANTED A CHAT !". Allen responded that in Britain and Europe taxicabs are called "black cabs" because they are painted black.[127] Her November 2013 video for "Hard Out Here" was accused of being racist for its use of mostly black dancers in an allegedly "disapproving" manner. Allen responded that ethnicity was not a factor in hiring the dancers, and the video was a lighthearted satirical look at objectification of women in modern pop music.[127][128]

Artistry

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

A 30-second sample of Allen's "Smile", in which the chorus is played

Problems playing these files? See media help.

Allen's early released songs saw her take on a thick Cockney accent while singing against retro productions.[23] Her music was used as part of an exhibition at the British Library tracing the history of Cockney English.[129] Her songs also featured other elements, such as the ska influence on second single, "LDN". She was also noted for her liberal use of crude words in her lyrics.[130] Allen has said she cringes now when listening to tracks from Alright, Still, as it reminds her that she was a "sort of over-excitable teenager who desperately wanted attention" when she wrote it.[14] Wanting to move on from the retro sound that many other artists had adapted since her debut, Allen ventured in a new direction sonically and lyrically in her second studio album, It's Not Me, It's You. "The Fear", the first single from the album, is an electro-pop track denouncing consumerism.[131][132][133] Her new music direction and willingness to write lyrics that tackled less-common subjects were lauded by critics.[58][134]

Allen's song "Who'd Have Known" was sampled in T-Pain's single "5 O'Clock" because of her accent.[135][136] 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.[137] The album's music blends ska and reggae with pop melodies.[138] Allen's melodies are influenced by the jazz improvisation techniques of American singers Blossom Dearie and Ella Fitzgerald.[139] The album's beats are influenced by various genres such as jazz and grime.[140]

Discography

Tours

Filmography

List of television and films credits
Year Title Role Notes
1998 The Comic Strip Presents... Child in Promo "The Yob" (Season 4, Episode 4)
1998 Elizabeth Lady in Waiting
2007 Saturday Night Live Musical Guest (Herself) "Drew Barrymore/Lily Allen" (Season 32, Episode 12)
2008 Lily Allen and Friends Host (Herself) Talk show
2009 Neighbours Herself Guest starring, soap opera (1 episode)
2011 Lily Allen: From Riches to Rags Herself TV series documentary

See also

References

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  2. ^ "All the No. 1s". Archived from the original on 28 July 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2009. 
  3. ^ The rise of a new wave of female singers, The Sunday Times 25 July 2009
  4. ^ Ella Alexander (7 September 2010). "Lily Pops Up". Vogue.co.uk. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "Devastated Lily Allen's 'Say a little prayer' tweet". Marieclaire.co.uk. 2 November 2010. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
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