His fans may not like it, but Kanye's actually a pretty fair point of comparison for Lily Beatrice Rose Cooper née Allen. Both are artists whose work is in consistent, complicated tension with their broader media-personality status; both are uncensored loudmouths, lightning rods for controversy, and outsized jumbles of vulnerability, arrogance and creativity. Sheezus gives us all three off the bat in a title track portraying pop as a title fight, with Allen confiding her insecurities before summarily demanding the crown. She means business too: perky electro-burst "L8 CMMR" is her shiniest, most radio-ready cut yet (notwithstanding the verses' come-lately auto-tune slather), and the sweetest, giddiest celebration of marital love since "Countdown" – naturally, from the author of "Not Big" and "It's Not Fair," the titular entendre is the highest praise possible. Producer Greg Kurstin ensures a familiarly sparkly synth-pop sheen throughout, with enough sonic left-turns – Zydeco accordion and bottleneck blues on the "Faith"-riffing "As Long As I Got You"; soft-touch throwback R&B on the pisstaking "Insincerely Yours" and convincingly slinky sex jam "Close Your Eyes" – to maintain Allen's magpie reputation. The singer's achilles heel, popwise, is also her most defining trait: her bent for unfiltered snarkiness, which rears its head increasingly as the album progresses, most troublingly on the mean-spirited, 'netizen-skewering wobble-step of "URL Badman" and the petulant class politics of "Silver Spoon." As with Kanye, it can be tricky keeping track of which lyrical clunkers are deliberately dumb, in-character satire and which are merely failed attempts at wit. The humor's appreciated, but – as Allen probably learned from the inane kerfuffle over this album's first preview video [see sidebar] – you can't be too subtle sometimes.
Do It Again
I Never Learn
Hour of the Dawn
Fear of Men/Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Guided By Voices