- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

British songstress Lily Allen is a study in contrasts. A diminutive 21-year-old with long, shiny black hair who wears fake eyelashes and girlish gowns every chance she gets, Miss Allen also has a penchant for Nike sneaks and “round-the-way girl” gold.

She creates bouncy little pop tunes with a sunshiny ska vibe and coos sweetly, and yet her lyrics argue that size really does matter, blokes at the bar should just buzz off, and cheating boys deserve revenge.

The queen of MySpace and toast of critics, Miss Allen is more than just audacious little ditties; she’s an explosive bundle of attitude.

She brought both songs and sass to the 9:30 Club on Friday when she performed as part of MTV’s first “Discover and Download” tour (essentially her and a low-temp warm-up DJ).

The warbler built her set around her full-length debut album, “Alright, Still,” (currently number 23 on the charts after its late-January U.S. release), and threw in a few supplements — “so you’re getting your money’s worth,” she said.

A packed crowd of twenty- and thirtysomethings happily devoured everything she fed them, from snarky singles “LDN” and “Smile,” to a thoroughly lovely reggae interpretation of Keane’s “Everybody’s Changing.”

While her stinging lyrics evoked outspoken chanteuses such as Nellie McKay and Amy Winehouse, her delivery oscillated between breezy, Jem-like crooning and whimsical, Princess Superstar-like rapping. (In more hushed moments, one sensed the presence of some serious vocal effects.)

Meanwhile, six male back-up musicians, including a three-piece horn section, gave the artist’s island vibe a boost in both decibels and energy. Each player was so handsome that one wondered if Miss Allen hadn’t chosen them as much for their looks as their auditions. (We wouldn’t put it past her.)

As the septet forged their way through the evening and the audience cheered them on, the singer’s rebellious streak found its way into the show. Within an hour and a half, she managed to break D.C.’s smoking ban twice, throw back enough drinks to get her “sufficiently drunk,” purposefully break at least two glasses onstage, and make some disparaging Dixie Chicks-esque remarks about her homeland in response to the four Brit Awards she failed to take home earlier in the week.

“It’s nice being appreciated in your own country,” she joked, before spouting some expletives about Britain and alternately voicing her love for America.

As the talkative crowd slowly — almost dreamily — drifted out, it was clear America loves the spunky starlet, too.

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