Lily Allen Biography
Allen's first single, "Smile", reached number one on the UK Singles Chart in July 2006. In December 2006, her debut album Alright, Still was voted the third best album of the year by Mixmag. In 2007, it was nominated for the award of Best British Album at the BRIT Awards and for Best New Artist at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. The album was nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the category of "Best Alternative Music Album." Alright, Still has sold over 2,600,000 copies worldwide.
Allen's second album, It's Not Me, It's You, was released in the UK on 9 February 2009 and the United States on 10 February 2009. The album debuted at number 1 in Australia and the UK, while the first single from the album "The Fear" was number 1 in its first four weeks on the charts. In the United States the album debuted at the number 5 position.
Allen and Amy Winehouse have been 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 long" nominated for the Mercury Prize.
Allen was born in Hammersmith, west London, daughter of Welsh-born comedian and actor Keith Allen and English, Portsmouth-born, film producer Alison Owen. Her family settled in the North London borough of Islington. She has an older sister, Sarah; a younger brother, Alfie Owen-Allen (who was the subject of her song "Alfie"); and a younger sister Rebecca. She has a number of half-siblings. Allen lived for a while with comedian Harry Enfield while her mother dated him. She is the god-daughter of Wild Colonials vocalist Angela McCluskey. The late Clash singer and guitarist Joe Strummer is also referred to as a godparent; while not literally true, Strummer was close to Allen. Allen has fond memories the week and a half they would spend together at Glastonbury as part of a regular collective centred on Strummer and her father. Strummer's musical past would not come into focus for Allen until after his death.
In 1988, at the age of 3, Allen appeared on The Comic Strip Presents... episode "The Yob," which her father had co-written. When Allen was four years old, her father left the family. Allen claims to have grown up with her mother in a working class environment, living in a council house environment for most of her childhood. This seems at odds with the fact that she attended some of the UK's costliest public schools; Allen attended 13 schools in all, including Prince Charles's junior alma mater, Hill House School, Millfield, Bedales School, and a primary school in Leixlip, Ireland, and was expelled from several of them for drinking, and smoking.
When Allen was 11, former University of Victoria music student Rachel Santesso overheard Allen singing Wonderwall by Oasis in the schools playground; impressed, Santesso, who would later become an award-winning soprano and composer, called Allen into her office the next day and started giving her lunchtime singing lessons. This would lead to Allen singing Baby Mine from Disney's Dumbo at a school concert. Allen would tell 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." According to The Sunday Times "the only school that seemed to have a positive impact on her was" Cavendish, an all-girl Christian school located in Camden Town. At Cavendish, Allen "played a boy in a production of The Railway Children and sang 'Baby Mine' from Dumbo."
Allen made an appearance as a lady-in-waiting in the 1998 film Elizabeth, 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." After 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.
At the age of 17, Allen became a member of the Groucho Club and in her free time she listened to artists such as The Specials, T.Rex and Happy Mondays.
Allen met her first manager, George Lamb, in Ibiza when he saved her from several assailants and sent her home. Allen was rejected by several labels, which she attributed to her drinking and being the daughter of Keith Allen. Lily eventually used her father's connections to get signed to London Records a part of the Warner Music in 2002. When the executive who had signed her left, the label lost interest and she left without releasing the folk songs many of which were written by her father.
Allen studied horticulture to become a florist, but changed her mind and returned to music. She began writing songs, and her manager introduced her to production duo Future Cut in 2004. They worked in a small studio in the basement of an office building. 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 Coldplay's X&Y and Gorillaz's Demon Days.
Allen created an account on MySpace and began posting demos in November 2005. The demos attracted thousands of listeners, and 500 limited edition 7" vinyl singles of "LDN" were rush-released, reselling for as much as £40. Allen also produced two mixtapes — My First Mixtape and My Second Mixtape — to promote her work: they included tracks by Creedence Clearwater Revival, 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. 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.
In March 2006, OMM included an article about Allen's success through MySpace. She received her first major mainstream coverage, appearing in the magazine's cover story two months later. The success 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 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.
The social networking site was the primary hub for messages of support and condolence following her January 2008 miscarriage. Allen received a 2008 NME Award nomination for the category of "Best Band Blog." Allen's songs have been downloaded from her MySpace page 19 million times.
As of 9 February 2009, Allen had 448,000 MySpace friends. She was the fifth most popular musical act of the 2008 according to the social networking site.
Allen used her MySpace blog for controversies surrounding her. By February 2009 she had stopped the practice because "It's boring when people just pick stuff up and write about it. People get hurt, people get upset."
Allen's debut album, Alright, Still, was released as a limited-edition 12" vinyl in the UK on 3 July 2006; the full CD release followed in the UK and the rest of Europe on 17 July 2006. The album features between 11 and 14 tracks (depending on the edition), most of which were previewed on her MySpace page, including the single "Smile" (the first song she wrote with Future Cut), "LDN", "Knock 'Em Out", and "Alfie". "Friday Night", co-written with Jonny Bull, was also included, alongside "Littlest Things" produced by Mark Ronson, help earn Ronson a "Producer of the Year - Non Classical" 2008 Grammy Award.
In September 2006, "Smile" was made available on the United States version of Apple Inc.'s 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.
On the week ending on 28 January 2007, British artists made chart history taking all top 10 places in the Official UK Albums chart for the first time since the chart was established in 1956, according to British record labels trade association the BPI, the album Alright, Still was number nine that week.
The album was released in the United States on 30 January 2007, landing at 20 on the Billboard Album Charts. Allen won a 2008 BMI songwriting award for "Smile". "Smile" was the first single. The U.S. version contains three additional tracks: "Nan, You're A Window Shopper", "Blank Expression" (on the iTunes version) and a new remix of "Smile" by Mark Ronson.
On 5 March 2007, "Alfie" was released. She sang on the Mark Ronson-produced Kaiser Chiefs' song "Oh My God".
By January 2009 the album had sold 960,000 copies in the United Kingdom and 520,000 copies in the United States.
Allen 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.
In April 2008, Allen said she was heading in a "new direction." 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. Allen said the new direction was undertaken because: "I did a retro thing last time, and since I did that, a lot of other people did it too. I wanted to separate myself from the group and move forward." For this reason, Allen chose not to work with Mark Ronson on It's Not Me, It's You.
Allen posted on MySpace a partial clip of a song, originally called both "Guess Who Batman" and "Get With the Brogram," but was eventually entitled "Fuck You" The song was originally written about The British National Party but ended up being about George W. Bush. As of late May 2009 the song has peaked at the number 68 position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts, the highest ranking of any song from the album. Allen had also posted early versions of "The Fear" (then titled "I Don't Know"), "I Could Say", and "Who'd Have Known". By 19 August, there were between 250,000 and one million plays for each song from the album that she has made available to listen to on her MySpace page.
After the release of her first album, her parent record company, EMI, was taken over by Terra Firma. Her management company, Empire Artist Management, was replaced by Twenty-First Artists although her core team remained in place. 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. According to Allen, this led to a situation were "everyone is terrified of losing their jobs. So no one wants to make decisions or give you their opinion in case it comes back on them. As an artist, that really is terrifying." Due to this negative environment, a decision with Allen's full approval was made to move the albums eventual release date in February 2009 by Regal/Parlophone."
The album was released on 9 February 2009 in the United Kingdom and the following day in the United States. The album debuted at the number 1 position in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. It debuted at the number 2 position in Europe and the number 5 position in the United States. As of the 26 February the album was at the number 5 position on the Pan-European Charts. The album has been certified as platinum in the United Kingdom.
The first single from the album, "The Fear" was released digitally on 9 December 2008 and released on CD on 26 January 2009. It entered the chart at number 136 on limited edition and was number 1 for the first four weeks after its official release. As of 26 February the single was at the number 3 position on the Eurochart. This single also topped the first ever Mobile Downloads Chart which is based on sales of full-track downloads to mobile phones in the United Kingdom. The video for the single was released 4 December. Three weeks before its release the single was in top 20 on Nielsen Music Control's U.K. Radio Airplay. In the United States on 12 January, the single was "worked" to Triple A Radio formats then Top 40. The song is based on Allen's fear that the world will become a sterile place where everything is sponsored. The single is described as an electropop track that discusses celebrity culture.
The second single released from the album, "Not Fair" was released for download in March; its physical release is scheduled for May 2009. It debuted at the number 16 position on the UK singles chart By 27 April the single had moved up to the number 9 position. On 18 May the song resided at the number 7 position on the Australian charts.. Not Fair has been described as a humorous song about a lazy lover. Allen has played the song to the person in question, and he did not realize the song was about him. The video for the song revolves around the classic American country music television show The Porter Wagoner Show.
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. The album was produced by Kurstin at Eagle Rock Studios in Los Angeles. 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. 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."
Other songs on the album include "He Wasn't There," a letter to her father one of three songs about immediate family members. "Him" is about God and includes her favourite line on the record: "I don't imagine he's ever been suicidal/ His favourite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival," "22" was written about a specific person but ended up as a more general song about females who rely on their looks and find at the age of 30, according to Allen, that "it hits them that they're not doing anything with their lives and it's too late." "Who'd Have Known" is a pastiche of the Take That song "Shine." Take That allowed Allen to use the song on the album but turned down an offer to sing and do a video with Allen. "Chinese" references take-away food and although believed to be about a boy, it is actually about time spent with her mother.
On 23 October, Allen released "Everyone's At It", the first track from the album for download on her MySpace page. The song appears to be a commentary on the drug culture and is expected to cause controversy. It includes the lyrics "I'm not trying to say that I'm smelling of roses but when will we tire of putting shit up our noses... It's meant to be fun and this just doesn't feel right... So you've got a prescription, and that makes it legal. I find those excuses overwhelmingly feeble… The kids are in danger, they're all getting habits. From what I can see, everyone's at it."
The release of the album is a factor in EMI more then trebling its earnings.
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. Players playing the role of Allen must negotiate a series of obstacles standing in the way of Allen's dreams. 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.
On Allen's website, there are remixes of songs from the album by fans who have been allowed access to individual parts of the songs.
Allen provided backing vocals on the Basement Jaxx song "Lights Go Down" (from Crazy Itch Radio) and appears on tracks on Robbie Williams's latest album, Rudebox on the Manu Chao-cover "Bongo Bong and Je Ne T'Aime Plus" (produced by Mark Ronson) and also on "Keep On." She also provides vocals on "Rawhide" by Jamie T. She performed a duet with rapper Dizzee Rascal on the song "Wanna Be" that appeared on Rascal's Maths + English album. Rapper Common has also collaborated with Allen on the track "Drivin' Me Wild" from his seventh album Finding Forever.
On 30 June 2008, Allen and Klaxons singer Jamie Reynolds announced they were working on a new song and had completed a cover of Joe Jackson's "Steppin Out."
Allen and New Young Pony Club provided backing vocals to the song "Never Miss a Beat" that appears on the Kaiser Chiefs' album Off With Their Heads. The song was released as a single on 6 October 2008. Allen's voice on the song was described as unrecognisable due to Mark Ronson's production. The album was released on the 13 October. Allen was expected to provide vocals for the track "Always Happens like That."
Allen wrote a song for the 2008 Shockwaves Awards entitled "From Barry to Billericay" about comedian James Corden. She contributed the song "She's So Lovely and Naive" for the soundtrack of the 2008 British comedy film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.
Allen presented members of Squeeze with their Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award. Glenn Tilbrook later remarked that he really like Allen's cover of "Up the Junction."
On 12 December 2008, Mark Ronson premièred Allen's cover version of Britney Spears' song "Womanizer" on his radio show. Allen in her MySpace blog said Ronson was supposed to "talk all over it so it wouldn't get ripped." Instead Ronson played the song in its entirety and the cover within days had been heard worldwide causing Allen to get into "serious trouble" with her label. Allen has played the song at gigs.
In 2007, she played the newly launched Park Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, replacing M.I.A. who had cancelled. Saying "it's big shoes to fill, and we're doing it acoustically so it might sound a bit funny" she ended her set singing a cover of Blondie's "Heart of Glass." Allen describes this performance as the highlight of the 2006–2008 period In concert, Allen performed a parody of 50 Cent's "Window Shopper," called "Nan, You're a Window Shopper," which was commercially released as a B-side to "LDN," because approval was not given in time for the Alright, Still release. Nonetheless, the song appears on the U.S. version of the album. 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.
Allen performed to positive reviews when Irving Plaza was rechristened as The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza on 11 April 2007.
Allen canceled 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.
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. On 3 July, in a surprise appearance with Ronson at the Wireless Festival, Allen appeared to perform "Littlest Things" and "Oh My God." She forgot some song lyrics.
Allen's first concert to promote It's Not Me, It's You was held 28 January 2009 at Koko in London. It was her first London gig in 18 months. A few days later she played at a gay nightclub where she dressed up as Britney Spears for the song "Womanizer." She also dressed up as The Pink Panther and wore a revealing Little Bo Peep romper suit. On 10 February Allen played the first of three scheduled "secret" shows at New York’s Bowery Ballroom sponsored by MySpace. The New York gig was also sponsored by TurboTax. Additional concerts were scheduled for Tokyo, and London. A 9 date tour of Great Britain and Ireland was started As of March 2009. She opened the tour with a performance at the O2 Academy Glasgow where she connected with the audience. The loudest cheers were for her song "The Fear." In Manchester she was supported by La Roux. In April 2009 completed a sold out 14 city United States tour. She also played Toronto and was be backed by Natalie Portman's Shaved Head.
As of March 2009 she has been confirmed for the Oxegen Festival, T-Mobile INmusic festival, Bestival Festival and Big Weekend Festival.
Allen was scheduled for return engagements at the T In The Park festival.
Starting on 5 June, 2009 Allen was scheduled to tour Australia and Japan.
In June 2009 Allen appeared for the third time at the Glastonbury Festival performing a 14 song set. The crowd cheered wildly and followed her request to raise their middle fingers at the British National Party before her performance of Fuck You. Allen wore a white glove that was seen as a tribute to Michael Jackson. There were 762,000 requests to see her performance on the BBC's Glastonbury online service, the second highest amount for any performer.
In addition she was scheduled for an 11 July appearance at the Summer Series at London's Somerset House.
In August 2009 Allen is scheduled to duet with American musician/actor David Cassidy at the Flatlake Festival in Ireland. She provided funding for "Artane Band" a marching band consisting of teenagers, for the purpose of travel expenses to the festival.
In November and December of 2009 she is scheduled for a 14 date tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland.