Lily Allen – URL Badman
Can we all agree pop wasn’t in a great place in 2013? The EDM train was still rattling on, and anyone who hadn’t gotten off two stops ago now had to put up with the rowdy drunks trying to sit next to you because they chundered on their seat (this metaphor makes less sense than a will.i.am lyric). I had just graduated out of uni and was working in a Walkabout to try and dig myself out of overdraft, so I had plenty of experience of both vomiting drunks and the worst music of 2013: Don’t Stop the Party (“y’all having a good time?” NO), Scream & Shout and the lowest of the low, Blurred Lines.
Like a foul-mouthed angel wearing a decapitated Bambi dress, Lily Rose Cooper (as she is not listed as in any song on my iTunes) descended from the heavens to deliver a hallowed kick up the arse of lowest-common denominator pop and its apparently well endowed poster boy. Hard Out Here was EVERYTHING I needed at that time: the misogynist destroying lyrics, ironic use of auto tune abuse and hilarious video.
Then it peaked at number nine while her bloody John Lewis Cover Version (lovely as it was) hit the top spot and the label decided Lily being interesting wouldn’t make them enough money and commissioned Air Balloon as a single.
I mean REALLY.
Air Balloon cast the whole Sheezus campaign in a negative light, to the point where follow up Our Time, a sweet and very British ode to the night out that would’ve been a solid Lily single under other circumstances, caused a fan to tweet her asking where the good stuff was. Lily, being Lily, admitted publicly she wasn’t pleased with the label’s single choices and the best stuff was on the album.
In a perfect world, free from pop injustices and referendums, Somewhere Only We Know and Air Balloon wouldn’t have happened, Hard Out Here would’ve been number one and URL Badman would’ve been the second single, rather than the treatment it got (which I’ll get to later).
URL Badman is to online trolls what Hard Out Here was to the male dominated music industry: a sharp tongued critique of social issues wrapped up in a package we like to call a ‘bop’, complete with a spelled out title in the chorus that is easy and catchy enough for every student out at Freshers to grasp by the second time they hear it.
So far, so standard Lily Allen right? Well the twist here is that Lily is portraying a character, as she has before, but this time instead of a female persona (that is, to an extent, an exaggerated version of Lily herself) she is inhabiting the mind of “London white boy rapping ATL, keyboard warrior that can’t spell”.
The point of embodying a character in song, as Neil Tennant will surely attest to (if he ever read one of these), is you can make a stronger commentary than if you were simply casting judgement in your lyrics. “It’s not for me, it must be wrong” sounds better than “it’s not for you, it must be wrong” Of course if you can’t convince people you are this character, you’re going to fall flat on your arse.
Luckily this is pop’s saving grace Lily Allen we’re talking about. Lily perfectly captures that mindset of these trolls who believe they are putting the world to rights and should become professional journalists (FYI: I am available for commissions, celebrity interviews and being hired full-time). The rap bit – which is incredible by the way – sells us on this character by rapidly listing oh-so-cool artists and brands: “I’m a space ghost perpetrator/a bottom half of Idolator/a check for Tyler the Creator”. Who in their teenage years hasn’t defined their personality by the things they like, and furthermore, things you like no one has heard of (“you meant you DON’T know who Utada Hikaru is??”)?
So rather then getting the treatment this song so clearly deserves, URL Badman was released as single number four with a video that is, frankly, trash. If you’ve seen Lily Allen Photoshop a guy with her hands once, you’ve seen it a million times. Obviously this wasn’t enough to re-energise the Sheezus campaign, which, in the eyes of the public, was over before it began. The world is worse off for not having the lines “I don’t like girls much, they’re kinda silly, unless of course they wanna play with my willy” enter the public consciousness.
Also, the modem glitch effects sound like sheep, which I’m convinced is a reference to Girls Aloud‘s Live in the Country and won’t have anyone tell me otherwise.
Entered chart: 26/07/14
Chart peak: a dismal 93. At least it made the top 100…
Weeks on chart: 1
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Lily Allen, if she cheekily re-released it as a single attached to a greatest hits.