In the void left by British pop behemoths of recent years – Adele, Emeli Sandé, Jessie J, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding et al. – there seemed to be few contenders ready to step up to the plate and take charge of the situation. So Sheeran and Adele have rumbling mystery projects in the works, but gorramnit, we’re impatient, and we’ve not had our nutritious filling of Top 40 nosh. As we’re winding through 2014, and hopeful former heavyweight challenger Lily Allen has besmirched her name with Sheezus, there seems to be nigh-nowt left to satiate our domestic big-pop cravings. Well, if you take the up-and-coming Foxes into account.
Southampton’s Louisa Rose Allen (no relation to the aforementioned Lily), after winning a Grammy at the ripe old age of 24 (for her track with Zedd, “Clarity”), has positioned herself to dominate summer both sides of the Atlantic with her debut LP Glorious. After a few reshuffles, the record is finally upon us, preceded by a slew of D’N’B splattered dance-ready grade-A pop grenades: “Youth” is an anthem for a generation; it’s a “School’s Out” for the modern day. “Let Go For Tonight” has got literally everything you want in massive single – the chorus, the hooks, the singalongability. Perhaps it’s a bit overwrought, but since when has that ever stopped pop from being great?
Some early (2012) efforts endured the test of time/cutting room, and live to see inclusion in the main tracklisting. “Home”, scrawled with wobbly bass and ballerina-box chimes, slinks along, clanking and kerplunking underneath Allen’s utterly majestic pipes; it’s rhythmically fanciful, and is structurally one of the most intriguing cuts on the record. It proves she can experiment with the genre’s limits as messrs like Lykke Li, Icona Pop and Robyn are wont to do (huh, Scandinavia’s sure good at pop, isn’t it?). “White Coats” is in similar waters. During the verse it’s finger-snaps galore and myriad synthesiser noises like a deranged NIN cut, but the sound transforms for the chorus. Allen’s voice sheds its mortal coil, exploding into smithereens like a piñata full of nitroglycerin.
While the album’s been streamlined and Brasso-ed, and the production values have been beefed up, her new ditties don’t kowtow to the financial input – Allen’s pop still wields integrity. Perhaps she doesn’t gamble as much on Glorious, but there’s plenty of reason to get excited. “Night Owls Early Birds” is stuffed with impeccable percussion and jaunty ‘90s-house key riffs, and when the chorus looms, it’s abundantly clear she’s not lost that knack for sizeable sonics. “The Unknown” is spirited synthpop; “Night Glo” swoons and waltzes with piano grandeur. It gets a touch Whitney-y, a tad ham-fisted, but, again, when’s that stopped pop being glorious (pun intended)?
Allen tends to deal with matters similar to Icona Pop: the themes are centred around being youthful, frivolous and socially clumsy. Glorious is about throwaway nights and wasted days, the foibles and rollercoasters of love, ‘love’ and lurve. There is a sense that this record caters for a specific audience, and that audience is quite narrow – it’s that brief time towards the end of or post-education when the world’s your oyster and you’ve got cash to spare. Maybe it’s not a super common scenario, but if you’re just finishing your A levels with pocket money saved up, or recently handed in a dissertation with some loan left, this is the kind of music you’ll want to soundtrack the hedonism that surely and swiftly follows.
Weirdly, it’s a coming-of-age record, doling out the party-credo and championing a generation, or at least giving them one last hurrah, before the inevitable, crushing, soul-destroying abyss of adult life. This might be a transient flash in the pan for some, but it’ll find a special, permanent home in the hearts of others.