Lily Allen’s latest single Sheezus is a song that praises the strong independent women of the music industry. But it gets headlines screaming “Lily Allen disses Rihanna!” and “Lily Name Checks Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Lorde!”. And after her praiseworthy attempts to call out the misogynistic double-standards of the industry, Lily is deemed “racist” and “culturally clueless”.
Yet while these genuine efforts to tackle gender inequality are slated by the media, some glaringly obvious sexist comments are instantly forgiven. For example, Beyonce’s claims that she is a “modern-day feminist”, followed by the disgusting references to Tina Turner suffering horrible marital abuse in Jay Z’s verse in ‘Drunk In Love’ (“I’m Ike Turner, turn up, baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake Anna Mae, said, ‘Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”). And please, let’s not even get started on Robin Thicke.
So what does all of this backlash mean? That Lily is an attention-seeking diva craving all the limelight for herself, and doesn’t know the first thing about feminism? Or that her intended message simply went over the heads of her critics? The latter would seem to be the truth, despite the media sadly whole-heartedly agreeing with the first. After the mixed reception for her previous single (and accompanying video) ‘Hard Out Here’, clearly Lily wasn’t fazed, and pulled no punches in her newest single ‘Sheezus’.
In ‘Sheezus’, she name-drops several of the major female figures dominating today’s charts, not to mock them, but instead to revere and praise them for being fearless, sassy and generally fabulous. The result of this? The media seem to be unable to wrap their heads around the fact that one strong female figure is actually complimenting others, and so sadly interpret ‘Sheezus’ as Lily’s attempt to slam all of her ‘competition’.
But why must women in the music industry always be competing, constantly compared and pitted against one another? We don’t read thousands of articles comparing Alex Turner to Ben Howard, James Blake to Paolo Nutini. And why is that, I hear you ask? Because they are all completely individual, exceedingly talented in their own ways and not obsessed with being superior to one another. Just like the women in the industry are too. I’m sure Beyoncé does not lose sleep wondering what Lady Gaga is going to do next, and vice versa.
So three cheers for Lily Allen for attempting to combat this injustice, because someone certainly has to do it. Music has long been a platform for voicing political beliefs, and Lily’s vocalisation of her feminist stance should be applauded. Maybe it wasn’t entirely successful due to misunderstanding and, dare I say it, complete ignorance, but it’s definitely a start.