It’s Hard out Here, but Lily is making things a bit more Bearable
By Marcy Driehaus
It’s Hard out Here, but Lily is making things a bit more Bearable
By Marcy Driehaus
“People in this day and age are still under the illusion that every woman who is successful must be being controlled by a man… I’m the boss.” British indie pop singer Lily Allen boldly stated at the Vintage at Goodwood Festival in 2010. It’s this sort of assertiveness along with her dedication to diminishing the female stereotypes in pop culture that deems Lily Allen an apt choice for this week’s edition of “Woman of the Week”.
Lily Rose Beatrice Allen entered the world on May 2, 1985 in London, England. It wasn’t hard to predict that Allen would end up in the Hollywood scene considering she was born to a father who was a comedic actor (Keith Allen) and a mother who was a successful film producer (Alison Owen). Despite the credibility of her parents’ professions, Allen’s childhood was by no means a breeze. Lily was only four years old when her parents got a divorce which unfortunately led to her father leaving the family entirely. Aside from her upbringing lacking a consistent male influence, Allen was also severely indifferent when it came to her schooling. This indifference, along with her refusal to comply with proper conduct in the classroom setting, was the gateway to her numerous expulsions throughout the years. These expulsions were so plentiful in fact that the future pop star ended up attending a total of 13 different schools before she decided to call it quits at age 15 and just drop out altogether. From there, she began working at a nearby record store called Plastic Fantastic which is arguably where her love for music began to blossom. She then began to take vocal lessons and learned to play a variety of instruments, the primary one being piano. From that point forward Lily’s passion for music only got more intense.
Taking things into her own hands, Allen began her search for work in the music industry. After being initially rejected by a number of record labels, she finally found what seemed to be the perfect fit when she signed on with London Records in 2002. Sadly, things didn’t go as smoothly as she’d hoped with that label. It turns out that when the executive who had originally signed Lily left London Records, the label lost interest entirely and dropped the up-and-coming artist. Taking this letdown and channeling it into something completely different, Lily decided to then take a hiatus from the music industry and pursue a future dedicated to becoming a florist, a path that she’d always showed interest in. This career-type detour, however, was short-lived, and Lily eventually made her way back to the music scene.
Allen signed on with Regal Records in 2005, but it wasn’t until she began to self-promote her work on social media that her career finally got the jumpstart that she needed. Lily started putting demos and samplings of her music on Myspace.com. This led to her accumulating an active and eager fan base that began with thousands of excited Myspace users. Allen, in fact, is one of the first artists to attract major media attention from a social media forum. This attention was the gateway to her future musical achievements and overall notoriety.
Lily’s musical success became more prominent with hit singles such as “Smile” and “The Fear”. Songs such as these, along with the albums they’re derived from, are what landed the pop star over 64 nominations and 28 wins of various musical awards, including a BRIT Award in 2010.
As the years have progressed, Allen’s status as a distinguished musician has allowed her to avidly express her opinions on a number of issues without the fear of her notions going unnoticed. Allen addresses the ridicule she receives as an outspoken female celebrity when quoted saying, “I’ve always been called ‘mouthy’ when, in fact, I’m just talking. In the music industry, women have always been controlled by male execs, told to do the Kate Moss thing. Keep your mouth shut, or people will laugh at you. They’ve been talking about us like this for years, basically.” Well, it’s a blessing to the female population that Lily has refused to keep her mouth shut because had she not made it a point to speak up, the world wouldn’t have experienced the important lessons that are interwoven into her latest controversial single, “Hard out Here”.
Lily’s most recent contribution to the music world is one that has definitely been provoking a lot of thought in regards to women’s rights, and is likely to leave a lasting impression on the music industry as a whole. “Hard out Here” is a song that addresses issues such as the ridiculous standards placed upon women in today’s society, but does it in a completely satirical fashion. However, it’s not the blatant message of the song being centered on the depletion of the foul perception of women in the media that’s causing a stir, but rather its music video which debuted on November 12. This video is essentially a parody of the video for the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. Being the clever woman that she is, Lily chose to target this song and its video due to its underlying misogynistic (hating women in particular) premise and the basic message it exudes that just so happens to be one that targets and objectifies women. Lyrics in “Blurred Lines” such as “you know you want it” exemplify a glaring disregard for a woman’s consent when it comes to sexual conduct. This evident disregard also serves as a perfect example of the glorification and acceptance of rape in the media. By Lily mimicking this video and exposing the offensiveness of the song while also surfacing other important issues dealing with image and stereotypes, she effectively initiates an important conversation about the injustice and misogyny evident in the pop/hip-hop realm. Not only that, but through this song she is also triggering an enormous reaction and subconsciously educating one dimensional minds on the hardships women face every day. Through her “Hard out Here” music video, it was Lily’s goal to shed light on how male-dominated the music industry is, which she accomplished through lyrics such as:
“We’ve never had it so good, uh-huh, we’re out of the woods
And if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood”.
By approaching such a controversial yet critical topic through sarcasm, the song resonates with and appeals to a wide range of people. Had the song not been so light-hearted but at the same time hard-hitting, it probably wouldn’t have captivated as many people. If that were the case, it would’ve ultimately resulted in fewer people being aware of the message of the song in general. The reaction that ensued as a result of Lilly’s song attests to just how prevalent her influence on the music industry is, along with calling attention to the amount of power that lies in the hands of an outspoken woman.
As of today, Lily Allen is mother to 3 children and continues to show the music industry who’s boss through her lyrical activism and defiant opinions. She serves as an inspiration to many, including Seton senior Kirby Sullivan. In regards to how Lily has impacted her, Sullivan says, “Lily Allen is definitely one of my role models. She’s never been afraid to let her voice be heard on social issues. When I first heard “The Fear” a few years ago, I was awestruck at the boldness of her social commentary. After listening to the rest of the album, I was completely taken with the way that she challenges social norms flaws out through satire and humor. I absolutely love her music. She promotes positive body image, independence, and free thinking as well as female empowerment. I was really excited that her latest single “Hard Out There” addressed the messages in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” She gives a voice to the millions of women who are victims of misogyny or have had their voices stolen. Everyone should listen to her songs because they provide a great message and promote social change.” Kirby is not alone in her admiration for this talented artist, and hopefully this article serves as an effective tribute to Lily Allen’s unending contributions towards dismantling the harmful stereotypes and outrageous standards set for women everywhere. Lily chooses to make her voice heard through song- what will YOU do to speak out against injustice?