Lily Allen – No Shame (2 stars)

Lily Allen – No Shame

The noughties pop superstar's fourth studio album fails to deliver

Along with KT Tunstall and Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen helped to make the noughties pop landscape a more overtly female-friendly environment, effectively paving the way for the relatable and moderately mouthy likes of Dua Lipa and Anne-Marie. But rather than embrace her status as a pop trailblazer, Allen's musical growth was stunted by a creative crisis of confidence and the apprehension that she was being manipulated in musical directions with which she was uncomfortable. Her openness in discussing her vulnerabilities over the years has been both a strength and a weakness, providing inspiration for fans and catnip for detractors.

She takes a pop at those faceless critics on No Shame's trancey opening track 'Come On Then' with scornful lyrics which just about cut through the electro miasma, and it would be satisfying to report that her fourth album is another "fuck you very much" to the naysayers. Instead, it's as bland and fluffy as they come with only the continuing soap-popera of her diary-like lyrics to provide the daintiest bite.

She recalls her misspent youth on 'Trigger Bang' but the wispy likes of 'Lost My Mind' and 'Higher' suggest an airbrushing of her impish edge. Despite its unrepentant title, No Shame regularly features Allen in slush puppy mode, coquettishly contemplating whether her beau is the one to grow old with on 'Pushing Up Daisies', taking a leaf out of the Adele piano ballad book with 'Family Man', and writing about separation guilt from the perspective of her kids on the mawkish ballad 'Three' ('when things feel black and white, we'll do some colouring in'). At least she ends on a stronger note with the bittersweet 'Cake', a ska-pop swipe at male privilege which harks back to her fresh debut 'Smile' and suits her lilting, soulful delivery.

Out Fri 8 Jun on Parlophone.

Lily Allen

Chart-topping sunny pop, often with a melancholy lyrical undertone or some caustic social comment, from one of the UK's most idiosyncratic stars.

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