Song 242: Lily Allen, “LDN” (2006)

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When Lily Allen’s Alright Still came out, I was totally smitten. Part of the reason was Allen’s undeniable charisma, an outsized sense of humor that somehow never wore out its welcome.

Another reason was the unforgiving Minnesota winter, which, even as late as March and April, keeps a vice-tight grip on your sense of self. As you wait for a bus while the wind chill delves further and further below zero, you question everything: Should I have worn another layer? Where the fuck is that bus? What is a bus, really, when you get down to it? Should I be able to feel my feet right now?

Alright Still was like a blast of sunshine in the middle of that misery. It’s full of samples from sunny climates, and its songs combine warm, sweet melodies with silly (but not overly silly) lyrics. The whole record is like a breath of fresh air, even seven years after the novelty of Allen’s tabloid-ready personality has run its course. Allen is a good songwriter and singer, but she’s even better at spotting and choosing samples.

In the case of “LDN,” a cyclist’s view of London, the main sample is from Tommy Cook and the Supersonics’ “Reggae Merengue.” The original song is warm and sunny, but it’s also serene. Allen’s song, in contrast, is frenetic and a little haphazard. As she rides her bike around town, she spots crack whores and purse thieves, but she’s not bothered; “That’s city life,” she shrugs. Over the chaos is a sunny sky, so “Why oh why would I want to be anywhere else?”

When you’re in the middle of a Minnesota winter, that logic makes complete sense.

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