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A decade on, the British pop star Lily Allen is still as forthright as ever—in her lyrics and her personal life.

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Lily Allen
Lily Allen

Lily Allen is an internationally famous singer and songwriter and a bestselling author. Her four studio albums have sold over four million copies and spawned three UK number 1 singles: “Smile” (2006), “The Fear” (2008), and “Somewhere Only We Know” (2013).

Allen was born in London to actor-comedian Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen. She dropped out of school at age 15 to pursue a music career. Her breakthrough came at age 20 after she posted several tracks on MySpace, then the most-popular website on the internet. Her songs combine revelatory lyrics spoken-sung over an accessible pop sound drawn from a range of musical influences. Her first album, Alright, Still (2006), sold over 2.5 million records; her second, It’s Not Me, It’s You (2009), hit number 1 in the UK album charts and number 5 in the United States. Her third, Sheezus (2014), also topped the UK charts.

Allen’s tell-all 2018 memoir My Thoughts Exactly details her press controversies, public feuds, addiction, longtime stalker, sexual assault, motherhood, struggles with fame, and more.


(Lily Allen singing “The Fear”) 

Forget about guns and forget ammunition 

‘Cause I’m killing them all on my own little mission 

I’m not a saint, I’m not a sinner 

Everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner 

Lily Allen is no shrinking violet. For more than a decade she’s been a persistent presence in Britain’s social and cultural conversations. She’s a singer/songwriter, an activist, a broadcaster, and a writer. She’s also a divorced mother of two with a knack for getting into fights with other celebrities on social media. Or, put another way. 

Lily Allen: I think I’m a hot mess. A proud hot mess. 

She’s also quite a polarizing force. For those on the left, she’s seen as an advocate for social justice. On the right, as a mouthpiece for the liberal elite. Despite her mixed reputation, a lot of people are listening rather carefully to what Lily Allen has to say. More than five million followers on Twitter and in 2018, a number one bestselling memoir. 

(Excerpt from Lily Allen’s My Thoughts Exactly

I’m writing this because writing is what I do. It’s both my living and the way that I live, the way I make sense of things, the way I try to learn my lessons. I’m writing this so that if I died today, my daughters can learn from my mistakes.   

Allen: I felt so defined by this character that has been written for me by the tabloids and stuff in the UK, and I really feel like I wanted to embark on the next section of my life, but I felt like I couldn’t really do that until I cleared up some stuff about the last section. 

The last section saw Allen rack up more than a dozen top 40 hits in the UK, three of them number ones. She also sold millions of albums worldwide, thanks to her blunt, personal lyrics, and devil-may-care attitude. But her latest record, 2018’s Mercury Prize-nominated No Shame brought a new level of self-reflection.  

(Lily Allen singing “Come On Then”) 

I tried to keep an open mind 

I feel like I’m under attack all of the time 

I’m compromised 

My head can’t always hold itself so high 

What if inside I’m dying? 

Every night I’m crying 

And even if I die trying 

I bet you’d probably quite like it  

Yeah, I’m a bad mother, I’m a bad wife 

You saw it on the socials, you read it online 

If you go on record saying that you know me 

Then how am I so lonely 

‘Cause nobody phones me 

You say you see how I move 

Life has not always been kind to Lily Allen, but unlike some of the other so-called party girls of her generation, she at least survived her 20s. The singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse and the broadcaster Peaches Geldof were not so lucky. 

Allen: There were definitely times when things got so full-on that I felt like I wanted to end it all, and, both Amy and Peaches chose heroin as an escape route. I was surrounded by heroin addicts growing up, and I saw what that did, and it’s just never been– I’ve always known that as soon as I do that, it’s over. I remember being in a car with my mum once when I was a kid and I said to her, you know, “What’s heroin like?” and she was like, “It’s like being on a honey-coated cloud.” It’s like, okay, I’m never gonna touch that, because that sounds really delicious and great. So, yeah, I mean actually even though it was probably really irresponsible of her to say it in that way and not say, it’s awful, don’t ever think about taking heroin, in a way actually her being honest about it, and knowing what it does to people is like okay, well, that’s gonna be a no-go zone for me. We’ve got no filter, us Allens. Owen-Allens.

Both of Lily Allen’s parents were in the entertainment business. Her mother, Alison Owen, who raised her, is a successful film producer. Her father is Keith Allen, a comedian and actor who achieved some success in the 1980s and 90s. 

Allen: I think I inherited my punk spirit from my dad and a little bit from my mum as well. I think more than anything I inherited my tenacity and fighting spirit from my mum. She’s an incredible, incredible woman. She’s a flawed woman like all of us, but, you know, my mum had my sister when she was like 18 years old, I think she was pregnant with my sister when she was 17 and she came from a very working class family in a coastal town in the UK and they were staunch Catholics and they cast her out, because she got pregnant out of wedlock, and they were ashamed of her. She managed to make her way to London with a small baby in tow, and by the time she was 24 she had two more, and she’s an incredibly successful film producer, and she did that all on her own. The fact that she’s managed to get herself to where she is today is truly inspirational. 

AJC: How did your parents react to your success? ‘Cause you didn’t expect to be that big. They probably didn’t expect it. 

Allen: I think they were proud. I think they were weirded out. I just think my dad has struggled with it a little bit. 

AJC: In what way, like, jealousy? 

Allen: Maybe? I dunno, you’d have to ask him. Certainly his behavior towards me would suggest that. I mean, he’s not mean, but I think it must be quite difficult. I know that growing up in his shadow was very much like, oh, Lily, she’s Keith Allen’s daughter and then suddenly he became Lily Allen’s dad. 

In the past 15 years, Lily Allen has made her own name as a rare truth-teller in popular culture by boldly putting her failures and foibles on full display, even when it’s turned her into a punching bag. 

Allen: I speak my mind and I get a battering for it, which is what happens in the real world, so, I think hopefully I represent truth, because, I’d say those things not because I want respect or want anything back from it. I kinda want people to see what happens when you’re a woman and you say something. 

And it seems Lily Allen still has plenty to say.  

(Lily Allen singing “Trigger Bang”) 

I need to move and grow some 

Been in the Firehouse for too long 

LDN’s burning, so tan one 

I’m gonna love you and leave some 

I’m gonna go out while I’m still strong, hey  

And it fuels my addictions 

Hanging out in this whirlwind 

If you cool my ambitions 

I’m gonna cut you out  

That’s why I can’t hang with the cool gang 

Everyone’s a trigger 

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang 

Goodbye bad bones, I’ve got bigger plans 

Don’t wanna put myself in your hands 

That’s why I can’t hang out with the cool gang 

Everyone’s a trigger 

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang 

Goodbye bad bones, I’ve got bigger plans 

Don’t wanna put myself in your hands