The New Yorker recently ran a brief profile of Lily Allen, mostly covering the same old ground (daughter of semifamous parents grows up to be singer-songwriter specializing in blunt but effective tales of everygirl sexual misadventure/gains fame through online oversharing and a hit record/is now surrounded by the flashbulbs of paparazzi everywhere she goes). At the end of the article, Allen is onstage in New York the night her second album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, is released, and the audience is singing along with her new songs. She expresses surprise that they already know the words and suggests that they have been illegally downloading the album. She’s then quoted as saying, “That’s okay, I don’t make any money from recordings anyway.”
Allen’s comment was not unusual — after all, most musicians make their money from touring and merchandising, if they make any money at all. But when you remember that a few weeks ago Allen told the New York Times that she didn’t think music was her true calling, you have to wonder what’s going on.
Allen has made a career of not really caring. In her first hit, “Smile,” she smiles when an ex is in pain. In her latest hit, “The Fear,” she sings ironically about a starlet’s quest for luxury and fame, as if Allen herself is indifferent to them. A big part of Allen’s appeal is that her songwriting and singing are conversational; she seems to be just telling an amusing story to a friend. But at some level, a songwriter has to take her songwriting seriously, or else why should her listeners care? It can be hard to tell if Allen does.
LILY ALLEN: House of Blues, Wednesday, April 1, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $22.50 and $27.50.