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Understanding Lily Allen's Shocking Single "Sheezus"

In the catchy, yet challenging, “Hard Out Here,” Lily Allen reminds listeners, “if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood.” The new, name-dropping single “Sheezus” requires a bit of work from listeners that, if done improperly, could easily lead to misunderstanding its message.

First of all, with a title like “Sheezus,” Allen already inspires comparisons (which she knows and welcomes) to Kanye West’s “Yeezus,” arguably one of the best major rap albums from last year, as well as one of the most controversial. This name gives listeners a heads up that, just as with Kanye’s work in “Yeezus,” some of her claims may seem over-the-top and self indulgent, but when analyzed, her brilliance will prevail.

Lily knows that things change. It’s not like she “has never done" an album, “but then again” it has been a while since her last one. The first verse, relating the female music industry to boxing, already shines light on the violence that Allen sees both within female competitiveness and also from the listeners' criticisms – an issue that persists throughout the track.

At the same time, she acknowledges that women are becoming majorly successful, that we should “wish [her] luck” because "[she’s] gonna need it” when so many women are creating great music; Allen hopes she can live up to this rising standard.

It would be all too easy to take Lily’s complex chorus as it is on the surface, like a bunch of unnecessary and degrading claims against other women in the music industry. But, based on the feminist attitude apparent in many of her other brilliant songs, it's difficult not to see the chorus as satirical.

Mentioning some of the biggest names today, Lily references “RiRi,” Katy Perry, “Queen B,” Lorde, and Lady Gaga. While not necessarily the norm, most of the lines themselves do not place the women in bad light. Lorde’s portrayal could be seen as Allen trying to put Lorde in her place, but she arguably respects Lorde because “she is only on her debut” and already she “ain’t one to fuck with” because she is so talented and outspoken.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

As for the Lady Gaga line, Lily could easily be seen as taking a “swipe” at ARTPOP. But we, as listeners, need to try a little harder.

On a deeper level, Lily relates to Lady Gaga. Media often misunderstands and pokes fun at Gaga, but Allen knows that it’s all just “LOL like haha,” very funny, let’s all make fun of someone who has an artistic dream and at least tries her best to convey it to the world. Instead, it isn’t really funny at all that Gaga, Lily, or any artist could be “dying for [their] art” and still receive so much public scrutiny.

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“Give me that crown, bitch, I wanna be Sheezus,” sings Lily Allen. Yikes! It almost seems like she really does want to put those other women down now… and yet, not so much.

About her new single, Lily Allen stated, “the chorus talks about other people who exist in the scene and that women tend to be kinda played off against each other and it's sorta sold to us or the way I read it is there is a queen and everyone else is in there kind of slip stream… what it's trying to say is that we can all be Sheezus.”

There is no one “Sheezus” out there, and Lily only hopes that she can break this idea of having a dominant “queen” female singer that puts all others to shame. That final line in the chorus is meant to sound absurd. Women should lift each other up, not fight over some “crown.”

The main focus of the second verse is the crude yet sarcastic “It makes me angry. I’m serious. But then again, I’m just about to get my period.” So often women can fight for something they believe in and create a superb representation of ideas, only to be pushed aside for being a woman.

She makes references to “human nature” and how “we all get periods” in one form or another. Why should women receive scrutiny for it? Topics like this are not exactly easy to discuss, but just as on “Hard Out Here,” she will “go ahead and say them anyway” because “there’s a glass ceiling to break.”

After another chorus, the song descends into a dark request, pleading listeners to “let [her] be Sheezus” in an eerie whisper. The strange way the song deconstructs paired with her morphing voice has the purpose of scaring the listener. The way pop culture is, the way media directs women against each other as enemies, the way musicians need to feel superior to one another – its terrifying and toxic for everyone involved.

If Lily Allen’s smart new singles are any indication of how her new album will play out, then “Sheezus” will be one interesting and thought-provoking record to watch out for.

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