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The Lowdown: On arguably her most polished effort to date, Lily Allen probes the highs and many lows that have followed her divorce from husband Sam Cooper. No Shame is in essence an exercise in vulnerability as she reflects on the pain of separation and the challenges of being a mother and a musician. Her willingness to be blunt has in the past led to divisiveness – take for instance the backlash to her clapback on toxic hip-hop masculinity, “Hard Out Here” – but with No Shame, Allen has found a topic most benefiting of her forthright and frank modus operandi.
The Good: No Shame truly shines when Allen showcases her ability to embody others’ perspectives, like the Adele-style confessional “Family Man”. On highlight “Three”, Allen beautifully contrasts the empowerment she feels as a pop star with the inevitable challenges such a career poses to her efforts to be a loving and present parent. This album is also a vocal pinnacle for Allen, whose voice has never sounded sharper, from the whisper-falsetto of “Apples” to the sweet nothings she offers a new lover with mellifluous aplomb on “Pushing Up Daisies”.
The Bad: If No Shame has an Achilles’ heel, it’s perhaps the lack of obvious singles spread across the record’s 14 tracks. While cuts like “Your Choice” and “Waste” bring some color to Allen’s most somber release to date, the guest appearances from Burna Boy and Lady Chann feel invasive in the context of such a deeply personal record.
The Verdict: Rather than worrying about radio play, Allen has made an album that captures the mindset of an artist and a mother approaching a pivotal crossroads. It definitely still has hits – look no further than lead single “Trigger Bang” featuring English rapper Giggs – but it also has a more endearing purpose. With No Shame, Allen has eschewed making an Irish exit from her days as a party girl and instead delivered a eulogy that gracefully buries the past while continuing to seek the sunshine of the future.
Essential Tracks: “Come On Then”, “Three”, and “Family Man”