Lily Allen on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll
Mouthy Mockney singer Lily Allen heads for the Trent FM Arena next week with a new attitude. She's keeping "that" shut. SIMON WILSON reports.
SHE is perhaps better known for her behaviour than her music. A household name due to verbal attacks on other celebrities and photographs of her stumbling out of clubs, as opposed to her songs about boys, clothes and drugs.
Which is why Lily Allen is trying to keep her gob shut these days.
"I don't blog so much," says the 24-year-old, who was one of the first high profile singers to communicate with fans through MySpace.
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"I don't give so much of myself away. It's got to the point where I don't even let myself be photographed with a drink, even if it's water. I don't like giving people ammunition.
"It's just too upsetting."
We've got her wrong, you see. And it's the fault of the tabloid press.
"I don't like people writing about my personality when they don't know me. If people stuck to the facts I wouldn't get so upset, but when people make judgement on my character from sources that don't actually exist, that's what upsets me.
"The general public are getting some idea of who I am and actually it's not true at all."
She worries about her widowed grandfather reading "all these horrible stories about his grand-daughter".
"He doesn't know any better than to believe them."
The former trainee florist adds: "Everyone feels that they have access to you as a human being. You're just walking down the street and people take out their camera phones and start filming you. It's like I don't even have a right to walk down the street any more.
"The only thing I can compare it to would be being in a zoo."
It sounds like a proper whinge but Allen is quick to acknowledge the good fortune that her career brings.
"I'm not going to sit here and complain about my life because I feel really happy for the things I do have. There aren't many 24-year-olds, especially in today's financial climate, that have got their own house and can pay off the mortgage and, you know, get sent nice clothes all the time. I do have that, but that doesn't mean that I have to enjoy 10 middle-aged men standing outside my house with cameras all day. And I don't like them following me in their cars when I'm on my own."
Since emerging three years ago in a vintage dress and funky trainers, with No. 1 single Smile, and debut album Alright Still, Allen soon shook off the "Keith's daughter" label and raised eyebrows and temperatures by laying in to everyone from Bob Geldof to Amy Winehouse and Kylie Minogue.
Initially it was through her My Space blog but she announced on Twitter in September that she had shut it down.
"The abuse was getting too much," she wrote.
And there have been no new tweets from her since.
In fact, just this week she claimed to have ditched social networking altogether.
"I've stopped everything, I haven't got a computer and I haven't got a BlackBerry. I don't do emails or anything now," she told the BBC.
Allen has been trying to stay away from controversy, focusing on the UK tour which comes to the Trent FM Arena next week. It's the second leg of a 2009 jaunt around the UK to support her second album It's Not Me, It's You.
"The most difficult thing about it was the first album," she says.
"I didn't really expect anyone to listen to it, whereas this time people were going to want to have an opinion about it. That was the only thing I found difficult about it, not the actual writing of songs."
The subjects tackled include the current obsession with fame and celebrity.
It saddens her to think of young kids reading celebrity magazines and being on gossip websites, "thinking that's what they should be aspiring to. It makes me sad to think that's what our society is becoming."
Along with the fame culture, Allen sings about the reaction against drugs on the track Everybody's At It.
"I get annoyed by the hypocrisy within our society and within the press and the government. It's such a taboo subject. Maybe it's just me and the environment that I've grown up in, but literally everyone I know is on drugs or has been.
"(The song) is just saying, you know, everyone's at it." She laughs: "I don't know what it means."
"I do know what it means. It's just saying, I haven't got a right to tell people to ease off on their views of it or that taking drugs is a good thing or a bad thing.
"I haven't got a right, I'm not well educated enough to be able to talk on the subject but I can observe what I see and that's what I've done."
Self-deprecation is in her character, she says, despite the public image projected in newspapers. And that comes through in the music.
"I don't think that necessarily humour in music is important. It's just something that I do in order to not take myself too seriously."
Although there's little self-deprecation on Not Fair, about her frustration with, erm, the sub-standard bedroom abilities of some men.
"You know, I can get on with someone really well and if they're no good in bed I think, 'Oh, God, this is someone I'd really like to spend the rest of my life with but I cannot face having bad sex for the rest of my life.' I'm sure that many men – not that many men, a very small amount of men – have said the same about me."
She adds with a laugh: "I think some people are really rubbish at it and it's not fair."
Well, that's sex and drugs covered, so how about her opinion on rock 'n' roll? Or rather the music industry...
"I think people assume people like Duffy and Adele and me and Amy are puppets being run by some big, powerful men. Whereas I don't think people would think the same about Paolo Nutini and James Morrison. There's definitely an undertone of sexism."
It's one of the reasons she is quitting the music industry altogether. Well, for a while, anyway.
This week she vowed to have at least two years off after her final tour date in March to open a fashion rental shop and launch a record label.
It's unlikely to be the last we hear from Lily Allen. She can't help attracting attention. You see, it's not us, it's her.
*Lily Allen is at the Trent FM Arena on Thursday at 7.30pm. Tickets: £23, 08444 124624.