Lily Allen knows precisely where she was when she first realized her “Smile” single was taking off in the United Kingdom, where she was for most of the landmarks in her pop career: on the Internet. “I was in America and Jo Whiley played it on Radio 1 back home,” Allen says. “My MySpace [page] just went insane. It was first thing in the morning where I was but there were hundreds of comments and I thought, ‘This is it now.'”
Since that moment, 21-year-old Allen has become the poster girl for social networking sites in the United Kingdom, reaching platinum status (300,000 units) for her Regal/Parlophone album, “Alright, Still,” on the back of a hugely innovative digital campaign. “MySpace A&R’d my record,” she says of the set, due this week in the U.S. via Capitol. “I’d do songs, put them straight up and if people liked them they went on the album. The record company didn’t think my musical direction was right at all until I set up the site.”
In fact, the album’s snapshot of British urban life stands as a rare pop record to attract heavyweight critical acclaim and across-the-board sales appeal. In the United Kingdom, Allen’s forthright views on other artists and bared-knuckle lyrics about teenage sex and drugs have given her cult hero status among her young fan base, while making her a target for the notorious British tabloid press.
“I never went into this to be a role model,” she says. “These girls see the honesty of me saying, ‘Yes, I’ve taken drugs and I drink and I have sex and give my boyfriend blowjobs occasionally.’ That’s just what it’s like being my age — and I won’t change for America.”