It's a Thursday afternoon, and Popjustice joins Lily Allen high above the streets of London. For this chat we have agreed to do an interview based on questions tweeted in by Popjustice readers. It is agreed by all parties that this will be jolly entertaining.
A tweet is sent, alerting people to the existence of an interview scenario, and while we wait for questions to come in we start things off with some general chitchat.
This is how it all unfolds.
How ambitious are you? Sometimes you seem like you don’t give a fuck.
I do give a fuck. You know what, my new mantra is this: ANT AND DEC. Ant and Dec. I might get their names tattooed on each wrist. Because they smile, and they never complain, and it seems to work for them and I wish I could be more like that. My other mantra is that I don’t seem to have any long term goals, it’s not about world domination, I just want enough people to buy this record for my record company to let me do it again. It’s a great job and I really enjoy the process of making music. And if I can keep doing that then I’ll be really happy.
But you do see it as a job, rather than as some sort of calling or a thing you feel emotionally or spiritually compelled to do?
Well I think we all have to work. Just for our own sanity — we have to get up in the morning and do something. And this is the only thing that I know how to do. So yes I do see it as a job in a simple sense, but I also know that I’m really lucky to be able to do this for my job.
There’s quite a lot of complaining on the album.
I didn’t really notice that until I did a track-by-track interview about it. (Laughs) “And this is ANOTHER one where I’m really grumpy and hate everyone…” I’m probably more moany on this record than I have been on past records because I wrote the majority of it while I was pregnant and hormonal and feeling a bit miffed at not seeing any of my mates, and none of my mates coming to see me. And having gone through some pretty shit stuff. So yes, I felt pretty moany.
Do you think it’s interesting that one of the first popstars who arrived through the wonders of social media…
Well, more that it seems like you live through social media, and your only connection with where you came from is through other people’s Instagram and Twitter accounts? Is it quite tragic?
Yes it is tragic… But I don’t think it’s necessarily true. These days everything is driven by the internet. But there’s just so much shit on there that’s not real, you know?
What’s your favourite least favourite Lily Allen fact off the internet?
I can’t think off the top of my head. But, like, Wikipedia is not a real reference. Just because something's on Wikipedia, THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT REAL! That’s what makes me come across as a cunt! I sit down in interviews and people go “YOU SAID THIS!” and I’m like, “no! I didn’t say that! I was misquoted!” And they go “OOOH, ANOTHER ‘MISQUOTE’!” And I go, “but it WAS a misquote!” And so it continues.
Is there anything you’d like to set the record straight on in this interview?
No! I don’t care any more! But I just find it odd. Odd and funny. And you say that I only exist in social media, but no. What you see of me only exists in social media. It’s the only place where you can see me.
So are you saying the image you put across of yourself is dishonest?
No, but if you saw me in my house, then you’d see that what I put across on social media is perhaps 20% of my day, and the other 80% is changing nappies and doing bathtime and making dinner for my babies. I don’t tweet about that because some things should be left untweeted.
But your big thing as a popstar seems to be “I am honest, this is me, I am very much on the level with my fans”… So is it therefore dishonest if you don't show parts of your life?
The reason I leave that stuff out is that there’s a sort of grey area within British media and the press: I don’t know where the line is drawn where my children are concerned. So I don’t mention their names in interviews, I don’t put pictures of them online and I don’t talk about them on Twitter. Because I don’t think it’s my right to say that they’re for public consumption. It’s their lives. We all know that when children turn into teenagers they’ll throw any fucking thing at their parents, and I don’t want to be responsible for them screaming at me going “WHAT FUCKING GAVE YOU THE RIGHT TO MAKE ME FAMOUS?”
Maybe they’ll be annoyed that you chose not to make them famous!
Maybe they will! And I can say, “if you want to be fucking famous go and do it yourself like your mum did.”
What’s the best song that didn’t make the new album?
A song called ‘I Don’t Mind Babe’.
What’s that about?
No. Bullying bitches. Nasty girls. Like school bullies, but grown ups.
Which brings us to one song that is on the album: ‘URL Badman’.
Have you heard it? (Bursts out laughing) It’s not about you, honestly.
It's a dismissive song about online commentators — there's a line spoken from their perspective, "it's not for me, it must be wrong". What’s the difference between you ‘just being honest’, which seems to be the ultimate defence rolled out by people when they're being fucking rude, and the people you dislike also ‘just being honest’? Is having an opinion only alright if you're Lily Allen?
Well they’re just being driven by something else, which isn’t honesty as much as it’s about [website] hits. I’m already famous, I don’t need to pull people in. I don’t need to make a shock or a song or a dance about everything.
If you were a successful artist returning to the world in 2006, and you saw new artists like Lily Allen coming through social networks like MySpace, you would probably have been a bit “I don’t understand this, what’s going on, I can’t get my head around it and these new artists completely get it”. And now it's you coming back into a pop landscape that depends on an even more advanced version of all that. And I wonder if you look at artists who are digitally native pop acts… Well, do you feel separated from the pulse of pop in the same way an older artist might have in 2006?
I always found insincerity a bit difficult to sit with. When I look at other people’s Twitter feeds there’s a lot of that… Listen. I love my fans. They bought me my house. They pay for my children’s existence and I couldn’t be anything but grateful for everything they’ve ever given me and the opportunities they’ve let me have. BUT. There’s something a little bit patronising about telling people that all day every day. ‘Retweeting’ this, ‘favourite for this, retweet for that’. Who’s got the fucking time. Who’s actually got the time? And is it actually the person it seems to be?
It’s the social media manager at the label.
What's the main difference between this album and your previous two releases?
The difference is that on my first two albums when I’m angry on those records it’s generally directed towards one person. Specific people who’d pissed me off, usually in the ‘love arena’. And happier and cheerier songs were on a larger scale — songs like ‘Everything’s Just Wonderful’ were directed at the world. Whereas this time round the happy songs are directed at my husband and family, and the angry songs are directed at the world.
Who do you think is actually fine?
My husband. And Adele — I think she’s incredible, and I love the way she does things on her own terms. She did that before she was successful, actually — I have a lot of love and admiration and respect for her. She’s not scared of losing anything, you see — it doesn’t mean anything to her. She’s not materialistic.
It would be quite good if she beyoncéd an album.
If she what?
Beyoncéd an album. Just suddenly released it.
I think she will do that. I have an inkling.
Just a hunch?
Just a hunch.
Based on nothing?
Based on nothing.
What’s Adele’s new stuff like?
I have no idea.
How many songs have you heard?
I… Haven’t heard any. (Laughs)
It’s very difficult, in this post-Beyoncé landscape, for a pop fan to go to sleep at night. Is it safe to go to sleep tonight?
I think you can overthink these things. What Beyoncé did was amazing in a lot of ways just because it got everybody in a tizz. I have to say, I only listen to ‘Drunk In Love’. They spent a lot of money on that album and people spent a lot of money buying it, but I’m only listening to ‘Drunk In Love’. It was very clever.
Apart from your husband and Adele, who do you like?
Who else do I really like and think is doing great? I’ll tell you who’s been getting a hard time: that Michael McIntyre. I really like his chat show.
I enjoy it!
Are you just saying this because it makes you feel better about your own chat show?
No, I just think… Well, I sometimes peruse the Daily Mail of an afternoon. And I can see when people are gone for, just because viewing figures haven’t been ‘successful’ even though they don’t work in TV and have no real idea what a good viewing figure is. People who are good at what they do, they’re just getting on with it… There’s something about us as British culture that we like to just drag those people through some shit.
So you like your husband, Adele, and Michael McIntrye?
That’s it! Everyone else is a cunt! Oh, I like Beyoncé as well.
You mention Beyoncé on your album, in ‘Come On Over’.
A few people have said to me, “you’re going to piss off so many people by namechecking this person and that person” and I think, “well, yes”, but I’ve always made a thing of social commentary and commentary on pop culture, and I don’t think you can do that unless you namecheck the people at the forefront of that culture. Actually I still need to write letters to Rita Ora and Cara Delevingne. In actual fact the song where I appear to slag off Rita and Jordan ['Insincerely Yours'] is very much the same premise as ‘Cheryl Tweedy’ all those years ago. It’s not about them, it’s about the idea of them — how the media perceive them. It’s about how the way the media perceive them as entities and how that actually has nothing to do with how they are in real life. And Delevingne rhymes with magazine.
You're actually going to write a letter saying no really, it’s fine, your name just rhymes with magazine?
Shall we have some ‘reader questions’?
I will hopefully continue to make music.
Depending on what?
My record company picking me up for another option.
How likely is that?
Ask me in a month. No actually, I will always make music. Whether it’s under the Lily Allen ‘brand’ or not. Actually the dream for me is to write musicals.
How’s the Bridget Jones musical going?
It’s finished and it’s brilliant. But I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day.
I cannot divulge.
What’s the best song you’ve written for Bridget Jones?
It’s called ‘Yummy’ and it’s Bridget singing to a fridge.
A love song to a fridge.
Lily is coming to France on Monday, so yes.
FLEET. No, actually, Chieveley. It’s where I get my last coffee just before I go home. It’s got a drive-thru Starbucks.
Seven. Ten being covered in crap.
Would you like to work with William Orbit?
I’d prefer to work with Stuart Price.
Why haven’t you?
I don’t know. I was sitting next to him at the Brit Awards and found him to be a truly jolly fellow.
He is, by literally all accounts, a joy to work with. Maybe you could do a disco album with him.
If enough people buy this one I’ll give it a go!
I wouldn’t say that was sweet. I’d ask how they got into my dressing room!
No, but I will refer you to ‘Insincerely Yours’ and hope that you enjoy that just as much.
A lot of people are just asking for your favourite song off ‘Sheezus’.
Well, it’s ‘Sheezus’. Do you like the title?
I thought it was a joke to start with.
I’m still LOLing to myself. I think it’s hilarious. Some people are just so offended by it, it makes me laugh how up in arms people get about these things.
[At this point please note that in typically unprofessional fashion we can't now find all the relevant Twitter questions for screengrabbing purposes so basically if you see a blue bird it's a question off Twitter.]
Are you okay with ‘Our Time’ being a single?
Yes! (Pulls face)
‘Pulls face’ in brackets.
If you didn’t have to sell any records to people, what would the first three singles have been?
‘Hard Out Here’, ‘Sheezus’, ‘Insincerely Yours’. Or ‘Close Your Eyes’. Or ‘As Long As I Got You’.
'Pure Shores' or 'Black Coffee'?
Black Coffee. It’s one of my most played on iTunes.
Are there any sad songs you can dance to on 'Sheezus'?
Sad songs you can dance to?
The best type of song. Robyn does those well.
‘Hard Out Here’? That’s a sad song. Because it’s about something that’s quite sad. And it’s danceable, I think.
Can you rank your albums 1–3? Which is best?
Well I thought they were all the best at the time of release but I’d say this one, ‘Sheezus’, is Number One, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ at 2 and ‘Alright, Still’ at 3.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Just to be nice to people on the way up because they’re the ones who’ll be there for you on your way down, which is inevitable. It happens to everyone.
Are you on your way up or your way down at the moment?
I don’t know. I’m figuring that one out. I’m surfing the wave between success and failure, and praying for a good outcome.
Can you do Eurovision next year please?
Has there ever been a point…
…where you’ve thought…
"Maybe I could do Eurovision”?
No. No. Just, no.
Who prepares your tax return?
O J Kilkenny Associates, although I did get one of those letters yesterday that said something about self assessment. In the bin.
Why did you release ‘Hard Out Here’ while ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ was still riding high in the charts?
The record company came to me with the idea of doing ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ and there was a negotiation between me and the record company: I said, “okay, I will do ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, for which I will not take a fee and will probably see no financial gain, only if you pay for a video for ‘Hard Out Here’ just for it to appear in its viral capacity.”
Well that went well.
Well I think it did actually. If you look at the thumbs up versus thumbs down on YouTube, there are more thumbs up than there are thumbs down.
So you didn’t want to do ‘Somewhere Only We Know’?
No, I did. I knew that ‘Hard Out Here’ as a song — before the video was shot — was one of the more important moments on the album. But I also thought that because it had the word ‘bitch’ on it, it wasn’t going to get played on the radio. So the only place for it to exist was on the internet in a viral capacity, but I wasn’t going to be able to get the label to pay for a video unless I had some kind of bargaining tool. So when John Lewis came along and said “would you pitch for this?”, I was like, “yes, if you guys put up the money for this”. And they said, “yeah, yeah, sure we will, oh hang on we haven’t got any money so let’s get E-Lites and Beats By Dre and a load of other people to pay for it instead.” (Laughs) I do actually really like ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, and it’s come in handy for those little acoustic gigs.
No. Because I don’t think we exist on levels, I think we exist in our own right.
But you could say, for instance, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Rihanna are all on a certain level. And…
Do you know what, I don’t want to hear this! (Laughs) I don’t want to know! The thing is I don’t really put people in bands. I’m sure the marketing people at my label could tell you exactly what level I’m on, but I don’t want to know about it.
Have you ever had any market research done about yourself?
I accidentally got copied in on a whole bunch of it and reading it was one of the most horrible moments of my life. They don’t actually tell the people what it is that they’re listening to. So a lot of it was just people going “is this Lily Allen? IT FUCKING IS LILY ALLEN”. “IF THIS IS HER I THOUGHT SHE’D FUCKING RETIRED THE STUPID CUNT!” (Laughs) This is about six months ago, too, so it really set things off well. The thing is, people who take part in market research: are they really representative of the marketplace? Probably not.
I find that kind of thing really interesting.
I find it totally unhelpful. My mum’s a film producer and they do these market research screenings, and more often than not it’s just like school — people don’t have opinions but because they’re asked for them they come up with something and then it becomes a statistic. It’s like, he didn’t actually think that, he was just trying to impress the bored-looking girl on Row 3 and he thought this could be his in with her. I’m yet to see an example of market research where it’s actually good.
Is that fringe the basis of a timeshare arrangement with Jessie J?
Yes. I’m now bisexual. The fringe and sexuality are interlinked, we’re going to swap back and she’s going to be bisexual again when her fourth single is out, and I get my fringe back.
What’s your favourite beverage?
Vodka, and tea. I do like a vodka and soda water at the end of a long day.
How do you stop your fringe getting greasy?
There’s been much talk of my greasy fringe on the Mail Online comments section. People are always talking about how grubby I look and how greasy my fringe is. (Laughs) It’s the source of much amusement for me and my husband. Why do people care about my fringe? Dry shampoo kind of works but I’d have to do it three times a day — I’ve got quite a big forehead, you see, and the sweat from my forehead goes into the fringe.
So if you had a smaller spam this might not be a problem?
Well I can only speak from my own experience but I imagine if my forehead was slightly smaller… Well, maybe I wouldn’t even have a fringe, it’s only there to cover up my forehead.
How much smaller, in centimetres, would you like your forehead to be?
A LOT SMALLER.
Do you like the Rita Ora single?
Yes, I think it’s great.
Air Balloon would have suited her quite well.
Do you think? (Pointed pause)
Would you like to write for other artists?
I have! I wrote ‘Mr C’ for Nina Nesbitt, which is her next single I think. I wrote it with Steve Mac and Karen Poole.
Beyond Nina Nesbitt is there anyone in the world of pop you’d like to write for?
Well! I ‘may’ have a pseudonym. I ‘may’ have a writing name, and I ‘may’ have written other songs!
Has that happened?
I don’t want to divulge.
This is an interview. Answer questions. Has that happened?
I’m not going to tell you.
Male or female?
I’M NOT GOING TO SAY!
You really care! (Chortles) One day you’ll find out.
Is ‘one day’ a clue?
(Shrugs elaborately, pulls frog face)
Is it actually a good song? Or was it just so shit that you wanted your name off it?
(Elaborate shrug, frog face)
Is this all bollocks?
(Another elaborate shrug, ludicrous frog face) COME ON! MOVE IT ON! NEXT QUESTION!
Okay. But has it come out in the last twelve months!
SHUT UP! SERIOUSLY! (Pause) It might be more than one…
If I tweet you a link to a song will you admit if it’s you?
(Olympic-standard shrug and frog face)
WHAT AN ARSEHOLE!
DID YOU JUST SAY ‘WHAT AN ARSEHOLE’?
You are being deliberately arseholey about this.
To conclude, then, is there anything you would like to say to the people of Popjustice?
Yes: come on guys, don’t spend as much time on Popjustice. There’s more to the world than that. (Laughs) Now that was arseholey.
'Sheezus' is out May 5, and you can pre-order it on iTunes now.