16 May 2006

Lily Allen and Corinne Bailey Rae: A Clever Strategy

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So Leeds’ own Ms. Bailey Rae, complete with rictus perma-grin, is currently taking up a lot of radio airtime and, one presumes, making a lot of money. And good for her, some say. She’s a local girl done good, after having spent time in local indie bands, playing the Hi-Fi Club (yeah? Well I remember when it was Liquid…). And now she’s putting that honey-sweet voice to good use, soundtracking the non-summer of the nation.

So while she’s going about her (now big) business, and fronting that it’s all innocence and light, her CD case drifting, featherlike, onto the coffee tables of those who buy one album annually (‘oh, you have Corinne’s album? So do we!’), some people aren’t totally happy.

See, some people think that, as pleasant as her voice is, it’s not actually singing anything. And they’re right. She makes sound, but it’s all so bland and nicey-nice as to be akin to heading to the seaside and putting a shell to your ear. Except there’s a massive hole in the back of the shell, so all you can actually hear is the sound of your own hand.


The powers that be (be they labels, BBC programmers or whomever) are aware of this, and have a contingency plan. Knowing that as many people as there are who are impressed with the lovely singing of nothing, many others are resolutely unmoved, demanding something edgier, cooler; here is a singer they prepared earlier.

Debuting in the mainstream with a jaunty tune called ‘LDN’, Lily Allen is a cheeky chappess with a sort-of-Cockney accent and – the great pseudo-individualiser here – bags of ‘attitude’. The façade is hollow, but should be enough to tempt Radio 1 listeners who want their ‘edginess’.

Ostensibly a Reggae-fuelled (yeah, to about the extent you’ll find on UB40 and Robert Palmer doing ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’) observational piece à la Blur’s Mockney phase, it’s still woefully lacking in any real substance. Consciously more ‘edgy’ than CBR (she even mentions ‘crack whores!’), it has some brass sample, but really.

Accent and Tesco namedrops are all well and good, but in reality this is about as edgy and modern as Finley Quaye. Still, I’m sure she’ll be burning up the radio this summer and the people in charge (man, I sound paranoid) will be complacent in having both bases covered in terms of female Brit singers.

Still, rather this pair than the bloody Kooks.

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