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15th May 2020

My Thoughts Exactly – The feminist icon and legend that is Lily Allen

Jasmine Rowland takes a trip down memory lane, and looks at the life of Lilly Allen in her best selling autobiography My Thoughts Exactly
My Thoughts Exactly – The feminist icon and legend that is Lily Allen
Lily Allen at the El Rey. Photo: Justin Higuchi @WikimediaCommons

With all the free time I’ve gained, I decided it was time to re-read the autobiography of one of my all-time favourite artists, Lily Allen.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the book for you as I definitely think it is worth the read, but it is a brutally honest autobiography, in which she takes us right from her early childhood to achieving fame and becoming a mother.

My Thoughts Exactly explores the life of being a wife and a mother whilst also being a touring singer and songwriter. She hides no single detail from the reader, as she explores the highs, lows, loves and let downs of her life.

The themes in her autobiography range from the music industry and media to mental health, in which she reflects on her own episodes and experience of it. The book adopts a feminist angle as she stresses the importance of women sharing their stories in order to create conversation and change.

Back cover – My Thoughts Exactly. Photo: Jasmine Rowland

Allen uses the autobiography to dismantle the picture that the media have painted of her in the last few years as we read about the events of her life in her own words. She opens up to the reader about a whole range of matters; from her feud with Cheryl Tweedy (previously Cheryl Cole, now Fernandez- Versini) to having her own stalker in later life.

Globally, Lily Allen’s career has been a success. She has been nominated for over 70 awards; winning a Grammy; a Mercury Prize; playing on Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage three times; and releasing four studio albums.

Her latest album No Shame is a record that denies imaginary meaning, leaving Lily Allen the opportunity to express how she really means and feels. The album’s title signals her rejection of any discomfort around brutal honesty. Tracks like ‘Come on Then’ challenge the image the media portray of her, with lyrics like, “yeah I’m a bad mother, I’m a bad wife.” She also sings about themes which the media don’t address like her loneliness: “Then why am I so lonely? Cause nobody f***ing phones me.”

Truthfulness has been a recurring theme in all four of Allen’s albums. Her first album Alright, still includes tracks like ‘LDN’ where the cheerful melody juxtaposes with a portrayal of the city that is quite the opposite. The second track in the album, ‘Knock Em’ Out’, takes on a humorous tone to address the all too familiar struggle of a young woman trying to get away from an unwanted man on a night out, exclaiming, “you can’t knock em’ out, you can’t walk away”.

‘Hard Out Here’ is one of my favorite songs by Lily Allen. It succeeds in challenging that which is to be expected of women, especially in terms of their appearance, with lines like “if you’re not a size six and you’re not good looking well you better be rich or be real good at cooking”.

The song was met with a lot of criticism at first due to its repetitive use of derogatory words for women, however it was clear that Allen had only chosen to use the ‘B word’ with the aim of reclaiming it. It thrives as a feminist statement with a catchy instrumental.

Undeniably, the most recognized of Allen’s songs is ‘The Fear’ released in 2009, it is a song about confusion in a world where you can easily become lost. She expresses ideas built up by the media about what life ‘should’ be about, suggesting it’s not about “mothers” but all about idolizing “film stars” and “cussing each other”.

Lily Allen is a wife, mother, a feminist icon, and songwriter who not only makes hits but creates conversation and connects with people in her music.

Recently, her latest Instagram revealed that she has also been sober for the last nine months, acknowledging this as a largely positive change for her life. Despite having a co-dependent relationship with alcohol in previous years of her life, her choice to publicly address her dependence on substances acts as an inspiration for people that they can do the same.

Most definitely I think it’s worth picking up My Thoughts Exactly to explore the Lily Allen that is not only an icon, success and mother but a bit of a legend too.

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