Less than halfway through our interview, the British music minx is already demonstrating classic Lily behaviour. Namely, allowing her mouth to run away with her.
But then, censorship isn’t really part of Lily’s make-up. At 21, she rocketed to fame by showcasing her songs on MySpace – with tracks that were hardly mealy mouthed themselves. First album, Alright, Still’s ‘Smile’ and ‘Everything’s Just Wonderful’ may have chirpy, reggae-inspired melodies, but their lyrics express the realities of life delivered in Lily’s brusque cockney lilt, rather than any sugar coating.
Yet now, talking about the traditionally ‘difficult’ second album It’s Not You, It’s Me, she seems, well, a little nervous. ‘I didn’t really expect anyone to listen to [Alright, Still],’ Lily confides. ‘Whereas this time people are going to listen to it and have an opinion… That was the only thing I found difficult, not the actual writing of songs.’ Indeed, there’s excitement in her voice when she talks about her new material’s slight change of direction. ‘One of the things I definitely wanted with this record was for some of the songs to be a lot faster,’ she explains when asked about 140bpm dance track ‘Go Back To The Start’. ‘I wanted to go darker and faster to try and have more of a party atmosphere at the gigs. And I don’t want to get bored, either.’
Judging by the multitude of musical influences she turned to, Lily’s a girl who needs plenty of stimulation. ‘Greg [Kurstin, her LA-based producer] and me listened to lots of Keane, who I love, and some Coldplay, and then lots of happy, hardcore dance. Then we tried to mix the two and have the ethereal chord progressions, mixed with more modern beats.’
Quite a concoction. Similarly, inspiration for her lyrics is drawn from far and wide. ‘I can’t keep coming up with stuff,’ she explains. ‘So I have three or four weeks off and then try again once I’ve experienced some more life.’ A life that if we look at the songs is a jumble of broken relationships (in ‘I Could Say’ and the song that sparked her bedroom rant, ‘Not Fair’), sexism (‘22’), mended family bonds (‘He Wasn’t There’) and reflections on whether God’s favourite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival (‘Hymn’). Nothing is too personal or controversial for the fearless star, who pops up topless and high-kicking on the red carpet when you Google her name.
As a result, of course, one of Lily’s biggest gripes is the pursuit of fame – or rather, celebrities today. ‘I get annoyed with people that take out their camera phones and start filming you when you’re walking down the street,’ she says. ‘I start feeling I’m not a human being, like you own me.’
Lily, it seems, is a messy mass of contradictions. She is happy to shoot her mouth off in her music and on her blog, yet she despises the media frenzy this invites. Equally, however, it’s Lily’s honesty, her integrity (‘I don’t ever see the point of getting into a relationship with somebody unless you think it’s going to last forever’), that lends her such power and popularity. In a cruel catch-22 situation, the more Lily refuses to compromise her personality in the face of fame, the more we, and the paparazzi, want to know her. Maybe, dare we say it, it’s really us, and not her at all.
It’s Not Me, It’s You is released on February 9 in the UAE