A pop starlet who may actually matter

Starting next month, 21-year-old pop star Lily Allen, who’s already huge in her native Britain, will finally start gaining serious heat in the U.S., thanks to her first American mini-tour. Actually, to some among the desperately clued-in, she’s already a big deal: At New York’s recent Fashion Week, tracks from her debut album, Alright, Still, served as a runway soundtrack for designers from Chaiken to Betsey Johnson.

Like fellow fashion-favorite Gwen Stefani, white-girl Allen blends D.I.Y. style with multi-culti ska-inflected pop. But what makes her interesting is that she’s a casually gritty poet who sings with sharp, curdled wit. The subject of her hit single about an ex, “Smile,” for instance, is about sweet, sweet Schadenfreude.

And “Knock ’em Out” may be the sassiest dance ditty ever written about fending off losers at the pub (“Go away now, let me go / Are you stupid or just a little slow? Go away now, I’ve made myself clear”).

We can’t think of anyone else right now who’s making cannily crafted radio-ready pop that’s this edgy and smart.

“>HEAR tracks from Alright, Still as free streaming audio

“>BUY Alright, Still

“>SEE Lily Allen on tour

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A pop starlet who may actually matter