It's always a worry when an artist starts slating their own album. Allen's views on 'Sheezus' have already been well documented, but finally listening to it there's a clear dichotomy between the provocative tracks Allen wants to release and those imposed by the label.
The opening title track is firmly in the former camp as she compares herself to other pop divas in a nod to Kanye's 'Yeezus' album ("give me that crown bitch I wanna be Sheezus"). It's a great pop track until she starts to mention periods in the second verse. That, however, is symptomatic of Allen's feminism that continues with last year's Hard Out Here in which she ridicules sexism in the music industry. Later, on URL Badman, she satirises internet users - ironically enough when her own career was built during the 'internet generation'.
That said, it's these deliciously cutting tracks that are the highlights of 'Sheezus' and prove her fearlessness as an artist. By contrast, tracks like Air Balloon and Our Time are fairly vacuous, if entertaining enough, pop tracks. Where Allen's vocal is thoroughly tongue-in-cheek, on these tracks she just seems bored. It's telling, though, that her cover of Keane's Somewhere Only We Know is consigned to a bonus track.
With its biting lyrics, 'Sheezus' is typical Allen fair but with more contemporary production - something that's been coming since her last album, 2009's 'It's Not Me, It's You'. That doesn't mean it's all synths though. There may be plenty of electro beats, dubstep drops and ironic use of auto-tune, but for the most part Allen demonstrates her ability to take other pop genres and twist them into her own style, from the R&B-pop of Hard Out Here, to the smooth funk of Insincerely Yours and the country twang of As Long As I Got You.
'Sheezus' is far from the split-personality album many may have feared. Instead, the varying styles and genres are given a satirical spin under Allen's knowing glance, resulting in a pop album that's as enjoyable as it is amusingly perceptive. It's hard out here for a bitch (especially one with actual opinions), so Allen really should learn to give herself a break when criticising her own work. Let's just hope that break isn't as long as the last.
* URL Badman
* Hard Out Here
Listen: 'Sheezus' is released on 5th May.