Five years ago the deliciously provocative British songstress Lily Allen dropped out of pop music for the uncharacteristic bliss of marriage (to builder Sam Cooper) and motherhood (to Ethel Mary, 2, and Marnie Rose, 1.) But last November Allen, 29, returned in signature style with Hard Out Here, a twerk-in-your-face satire of music industry sexism, then confused us by opening for Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz tour this summer.
We caught up with Allen in advance of her concert Tuesday at the Fillmore Miami Beach, part of her first U.S. tour since she dropped out of sight.
Why’d you leave music and why’d you come back?
I stepped away because I fell in love and decided I wanted to have a family with the man who is now my husband. Then I felt like there was a creative void in my life. I didn’t know how much I needed to make music. It helps me get my mind in shape.
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Did you really think you were done?
Yes I did. I was going to be the mum that pureed organic vegetables, but it didn’t fly with me. I do enjoy doing that, but I definitely need to create.
Your new album “ Sheezus” seems split between songs about your personal life and some pretty ambivalent songs about pop culture.
I always try to bring a bit of antagonism to my music — I’m an antagonistic person. On previous records I directed the negative elements to people who had pissed me off, ex-lovers or girlfriends. But I still feel pissed off on a social and political level. Now I’m nice about my husband — I feel very loved and supported in that area which I haven’t ever felt in my life before — and pissed off about everything else.
What inspired “Hard Out Here”?
Whenever I start writing songs I never really know what they’re gonna be about at the end. The message comes out about three quarters of the way through. I was fooling around with the instrumentation, and there was this kind of rapping bit, and I said “I gotta tell you what this bitch is thinking.” Once that was staring me in the face I got to thinking “wow, bitch is a powerful word.”
I’m surprised you’re a fan of Miley Cyrus.
Miley did a really brave thing. She had a very established brand and she’d been incredibly successful and wealthy. It takes guts to throw that away and try something new, and she did it amazingly and convincingly. And she’s not apologetic at all — she doesn’t give a [damn] and that’s the kind of person I like.
So how does it feel to be back in the media scrum?
When I was doing promotion and photo shoots I got excited for a bit about wearing fancy clothes and designers sending me handbags. But then I realized I want to be me again as an artist, and do it with conviction and passion. The other stuff is secondary.
Seems like you’re stuck being a musician. Can you imagine doing anything else?
I’m the luckiest girl in the world. I took a break, had kids, now I’m back doing what I love. I’m getting paid considerably less than I was before, but it’s still a dream job.