It’s been four years since British songstress Lily Allen released an album, but her new single, “Hard Out Here,” and its accompanying video, prove that she hasn’t lost any of her biting wit. The mid-tempo tune echoes her previous endeavors both musically and lyrically, with the singer taking on the often painful trappings of being a woman in the entertainment world.
As the video opens, Allen lies on an operating table surrounded by surgeons performing liposuction, as well as her manager, who wonders aloud, “How does somebody let themselves get like this?” “Um, I had two babies,” she replies, dryly.
What follows is an indictment of pop culture, with blatant shots taken at Robin Thicke’s endlessly controversial video for “Blurred Lines” (giant balloons spell out “Lily Allen Has a Baggy Pussy”) and the whipping girl du jour, Miley Cyrus. Like the former Hannah Montana, Allen emulates the excesses of certain hip-hop videos by parading around a host of well-endowed black women who twerk and jiggle their assets with wild abandon.
But unlike Cyrus, Allen is clearly in on the misappropriation: We see her manager (an old white guy) awkwardly demonstrating exactly how he wants Allen and her backup dancers to jiggle said assets. And meanwhile, she sings, “Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you/ Have you thought about your butt, who’s gonna tear it in two?”
There’s nothing subtle about “Hard Out Here,” but then subtlety isn’t necessarily called for when addressing the musical sins of Thicke, Cyrus, Rihanna, or any number of other musical acts on the pop scene. Allen’s return feels like a welcome antidote to much of what’s out there.