If you thought Lily Allen was going to fade away with the very decade from which she emerged, you were very wrong (and horribly faithless). After having two kids and taking a “hiatus” (always code for “over it”), it seemed almost impossible to imagine her triumphant comeback. Initially, Allen was reported to have changed her performing name to Lily Rose Cooper, but, mercifully, the first single from her new album, “Hard Out Here,” was released under her rightful name, Lily Allen. The creation of this song was perhaps foreshadowed on Allen’s MySpace (pause for a moment of silence) page, where, under her name was the quote, “It’s hard out here for a pimp” from Three 6 Mafia’s famed song. But, while Allen knows the verity of that aphorism, she also knows that it’s far more accurate to say, “It’s hard out here for a bitch.” Because, sadly, it still is.
In an accompanying video opening with Allen undergoing liposuction, she overhears her doctors and agent murmur, “Jesus how could somebody let themselves get like this, huh?”…“A lack of self-discipline really.” She barely musters the strength to retort, “Uh, I’ve had two babies.” Meanwhile, her agent stands beside her to inform her she’s been denied appearances on David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel. Allen lets it all happen to her with the ennui of someone who’s tried to take a stand too many times before. And, as a woman, it's easy to understand her resignation: After all, you can only embody two personas—obsequious or obstinate (which are the pretentious euphemisms for virgin or whore, in case you needed clarification). It’s a tale as old as time (to pay homage to a Celine lyric), and yet, it’s one that seems never to have a resolution.
And so, Allen does the only thing she can do to cope with the state of female perception and expectation: Poke fun at it. And that poking is as strong and comical as a woman wearing a strap-on. Embracing the stereotype of every rap video, Allen throws off her hospital gown and enters the set of the video she was previously watching on TV. Parading around in a form-fitting (though not revealing—as she affirms “Don’t need to shake my ass for you ‘cause I’ve got a brain”) pair of pants, Allen takes instruction from her agent in between takes on how to dance more sexily with her fellow dancers.
In addition to showcasing the ridiculousness of how women are viewed, Allen also puts heavy importance on the use of the word “bitch”—a term with threefold meaning in this particular song. In one sense, it does what black people had to do with the N-word by taking back the derogatory connotation for female use only. Then, of course, there’s the simple meaning of it: Woman. But in another sense, it intimates the notion that you have to become a bitch in order to get things done and cope in this world. In typical Allen fashion, the pop ditty is filled with perkily delivered sarcastic jibes like, “You’re not a size six and you’re not good lookin’/Well you better be rich or at least good at cookin’” and “You should probably fix your face or you'll end up alone…/don’t you want somebody who objectifies you?”
Mincing no words and sparing no vitriol, it’s safe to say that the Lily Allen we came to know and love on Alright, Still is back and better than ever.