Montréal, June 1st, 2019
Dear Lily ?
I have been listening to your music for so long, since the beginning, I guess. I’ve been singing along “Smile” for years, in haze, in anger, in joyful times.
The first time I experienced your musical universe, I was thirteen, a young girl but inside already a woman becoming herself. I remember studying your style, the clothes that you wore and trying to understand how you could be so awesome. Anyhow, I was unable to truly understand what it meant to be the woman that you were and the one you were destined to be, in the music industry as well as in your personal life.
I’m writing this letter to you from woman to woman, from writer to writer, from artist to artist, from a feminist to another. That said, I cannot say that I feel close to you because I don’t know you. Maybe one day we’ll meet, maybe not, but that’s not even important. What matters here is that I want to recognize and say out loud how happy I am that you are making music so precise, so well thought, so true.
Last week, I read your book, “My thoughts exactly”. I’ve been wanting to read it since it came out but I don’t know why, I kept waiting, maybe for the right time, maybe for the right space, maybe because I knew that I would be overwhelmed whilst reading it. Indeed, I was.
Before I enter more deeply into my impression of your book, I want to address the joy that I felt when I saw that my name was the first on the list to borrow the book at the library in Montreal. I was the first to ever turn these pages, and it felt good, it felt special, it felt like it was meant to be.
I’ve been wandering if I wanted to write a review of the book, an article about you as an artist or more simply a letter. Finally, the letter came naturally, as a way to diminish the gap and offer a kind of response that could relate to your own writing. Personal, subjective, whole.
You express in your book how important to you your public is, especially in the way that we receive your music, as an end goal for you, sharing and feeling the vibe from the audience when you sing, being vulnerable on stage. I went to your show twice in Montreal, each time with men that I sincerely care for. Why men ? Maybe because I love your music so much that I wanted to share it with them potentialities of different perspective, in which I mean, yours : unapologetic, politically incorrect and vulnerable. I remember dancing, singing, looking at you from down there and feeling really emotional to see you every time unraveling secrets and feelings from within. Your words, your texts especially move me. As a writer, I am inclined to deconstruct and analyze sentences, narrative acts and storylines. In each of your albums, I was absolutely immersed in perceptions and observations about your world.
Worlds of love, work, family, music and fame. Of those I know only two.
Still, living a life so far from yours never stopped me from listening again and again and try to explore differently the sounds and the intentions behind each song. A few memories linked to your music come to my mind instantly :
LDN (2006): Walking, in every city I’ve ever been to, earplugs blasting this song and me feeling free, so free, to feel the pavement at each step, embracing it and seeing humans in all of their loneliness and uniqueness. I remember singing this song out loud in the streets of Montreal last week, smiling at the memory of my teenage years, already open to life, already living crazy shit.
Riding through the city on my bike all day
‘Cause the filth took away my licence
It doesn’t get me down and I feel okay
‘Cause the sights that I’m seeing are priceless
LDN, Alright Still (2006), Lily Allen
Fuck You (very very much) (2009): Recently, I had to apply to a kind of competition called “Concours Nueva” put up by “Femmes Alpha” a company that aims at involving ‘women in tech’ and ‘women working on the internet’ or ‘women that are smart on the internet’ by giving them either cash, gifts or visibility. In the end, they can use all the contestant’s images to promote their work whilst the projects bearers don’t have their voices heard in all of this. Sooooo, in the video I sent for contest, I used your song “Fuck You’ to illustrate my project that is the website you’re reading this on right now, a feminist, pro-sex, online media. When talking about my work in the video, your voice singing joyfully “Fuck You” to the establishment accompanied me in the prospect of speaking about women’s rights, our realities, our sassiness, our strength, our talents and our anger. Finally, I did not win the contest but I was awarded a one year membership for the FCTMN “Femmes du cinéma, de la télévision et des médias numériques” which is alright, a good way to come express my “radicalness” (I’ve been attached this label recently so I’m trying to embrace it)to this organization. We’ll see. So, Thank you for saying fuck you so loudly, so beautifully, because it helped me do the same in my own way.
Do you get
Do you get a little kick out of being slow-minded?
You want to be like your father
It’s approval you’re after
Well that’s not how you find it
Do you really enjoy living a life that’s so hateful?
‘Cause there’s a hole where your soul should be
You’re losing control of it and it’s really distasteful
Fuck you very, very much
Fuck you (very very much), The Fear (2009), Lily Allen
Sheezus (2014) : Oh, what a song. Reading your book certainly gave another color to this song. I will not let myself wander writing about your personal life and anyone willing to learn more can go read the book themselves (Do read the book, it’s really really good). Sheezus, I remember, reinforced at the time my sense of unsatisfaction of how mainstream media still talk and publish crap about women in the entertainment or music industry. I remember wanting to rock my sexiness outside in order to (again) say thank you to “Les détracteurs de la morale”, those who hold the power so close to their cojones that it burns them, slowly morphing them into weird sad clowns, sometimes violent and seemingly heartless. More recently, this song came back into my mind when I read ‘The Future is Feminist’ edited by Jessica Valenti. This book, published earlier in 2019, is a masterpiece of intelligence and pertinence. It features living authors who are women, women who died but left behind them revolutionary texts and also stories about us, right now in the world, and what bothers us, what angers us, what fucking makes us mad. Sheezus came in my mind when I read Salma Hayek’s text “Harvey Weinstein is my monster too”. She entails with great details and a necessary analysis the repeated sexual assaults of Weinstein, the general ignorance of violence and sexual intimidation and blackmail occurring in Hollywood and in all the cash-fueled industries.
I wanna be Sheezus
I’m ready for all the comparisons
I think it’s dumb and it’s embarassing
I’m switching off, no longer listening
I’ve had enough of persecution and conditioning
Maybe it’s an instint, we’re only animal
Maybe it’s healthy, maybe it’s rational
It makes me angry, I’m serious
But then again, I’m just about to get my period
Periods, we all get periods
Every month, that’s what the theory is
It’s human nature, another cicle
Be nice to me, I’ll make you one of my disciples
Sheezus, Sheezus (2014), Lily Allen
Sheezus came in echo of Salma Hayek’s story, it also came in echo with mine, with many of my sister’s stories and the huge pressure we’re told to put on ourselves in this world, hypocrit, sexist motherfucking world. But then, your book came along and healed a bit some of this feeling, because you write about resilience, about moving out your own toxic zone, as I’m trying to do, in my own way, through writing as well, many many many words. Exorcizing the pain, my own and the ones that I feel around me, as well as being able to tell our stories like this is so important. Thank you for sharing yours with us Lily, I know it’s not easy.
Family Man (2018): This particular song touched me deeply because, as you did, many times, I fell in love. In the process of loving, romantically that said,
I know we’re gonna pull through
But darling I need my time away from you
I hope we’re gonna make it through
But darling I need my time away from you
Family Man, No Shame (2018), Lily Allen
Those words have hit me like a thunderstorm. I need my time away from you. How is it, we women, have such a hard time taking time for ourselves, enjoying for the only sake of us our own victories? How come we struggle so much on the path to inner peace? So many answers could try to approach this question but yet, the only acceptable solution for me is the acceptance of our deepest emotions and contradictions. Trying not to rely on anyone else but me is both a wish and a fear, both an ideal and an illusion. Being the whole woman I wish to be is going to take some radical cut-offs, some ‘No’s and some ‘Yes’s but most of all, it’s gonna take a very strong energy pulling me out in times of exhaustion from the vortex of self-doubt and PTSD chronical nightmares and body pains. As women, needing time away from our lovers or partner sometimes channels so much energy we lose our sense of self when we’re finally alone, feeling upmost, even more alone. Family man is a necessary reminder that it should not be a luxury to be independent, but the basis our successes, a tool to reach our full potentials.
I am writing an open letter to you in order to be public about the close links that are binding us all together, women, artists, writers, survivors, mothers, non-mothers, famous, not famous, humans. The decision you made to write down your story in such an honest and truthful way inspired me to create this interaction, may it be virtual, still it is real now. Maybe my words to Lily Allen will reach far away from the both of us, resonating in hearts and in beings I’ll never know about. In a sense, whilst writing this letter to Lily Allen, I am writing a letter to all the amazing women I wish to talk to, to meet, to exchange on our goals, our dreams, our deepest fears and our experiences. Because as ambitious women, we are not told to thrive naturally, freely, we are told to stay in control, or (exclusively) to lose all kind of control and thus, letting ourselves be in the not-always clean hands of others.
I admire your volition to stay independent in your music, in your writing and in your work. Like you, and as feminist, it matters immensely to me to keep my line of work straight according to my vision. I stumble on my own little rocks sometimes, I stutter in confusion and I make mistakes too but I am sure that it will all come around as I know what I don’t want to do, I know I don’t want to ply myself to the higher power (WTF is that even?), to accept submission to racist and sexism systems, intrinsically unequal and structurally fucked up.
Reading your book in my bed, in the bus, in the street and in the park represented in times of transition and profound changes a home away from home. Reminding me of my teenage years, evolving as a badass woman later,‘My thoughts exactly’ echoed in me like an hymn to keep going and forgive myself. And for that also Lily, I thank you.
Now is the time to wrap up this letter and move on, but before I wish to say two last things :
As a journalist, I hear you, as a bearer of information, I understand what you’re saying and the fight for respect and intelligent subversive journalist is in my top priorities. Thank you for speaking out the bullshit about the media industry and its harmful tactics.
Secondly and lastly, I would love to meet you one day, until then (or never), I wish you the best in your life, in your dreams and in your soul. Thank you for your music.