David Lister: Lily Allen is the ideal person to turn parenthood into pop

The Week in Arts

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I 'm quite excited that Lily Allen is pregnant. Which is not something I thought I'd ever hear myself saying; but I see in Miss Allen's coming happy event the possibility of an even happier event for pop music.

She has already broken the boundaries with songs more personal than usually figure in a three-minute pop song – how lousy a boy friend was in bed being a not atypical example. But what a much more significant extension of the pop lyric it would be if she was inspired by the new life she is embarking upon to write songs about motherhood. That would certainly create a new musical niche.

Roger Daltrey once told me that he was sorry that his Who bandmate Pete Townshend, the best chronicler in song ever of teenage angst, had not gone on to write songs about middle-aged angst. The trouble is, of course, that a lot of middle-aged angst revolves around family and children. And children are persona non grata in rock songs.

Occasionally they do creep in, but usually from male rock stars who become parents in their thirties or forties. John Lennon rhapsodised over his son Sean, who was born when he was in his mid-thirties (though never about his son Julian whom he had in his early twenties). Bruce Springsteen, in the song "Living Proof", paid homage to his little boy. Female pop stars, in the very rare cases that they do sing about their offspring, become rather soppy. Kate Bush's last album contained a paean to her son, but the words "Lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely Bertie" repeated several times did not make for the most wide-ranging insight into motherhood.

Lily Allen, I think, is the ideal person to turn parenthood into pop. OK, she has said she is retiring from the music business, but I discount that. It was an "I know I'm pregnant but no one else knows so I'm not up for any gigs in the next couple of years but I can't say why" retirement statement. She will be back. And when she is, wouldn't it be good if her caustic wit, acerbic observations and genuine joy in life were brought to bear on children and motherhood as well as love interests.

The woman who sang on her last album about that hopeless boyfriend can sing on her next about how wretched postnatal depression is, or, perhaps more likely given the various obsessions on her blog, how difficult it is to get your body back into shape after childbirth.

And I suspect that in a few years' time she might be writing and performing songs far removed from the Kate Bush child adulation. They are more likely to look at the restrictions child-rearing can impose on a social animal.

There's no end of unexplored subjects in pop. Parenthood has had a particularly poor deal, but the woman who is one of our most exciting twenty-something composers of contemporary music is the one to give pop a whole new dimension. Do it, Lily.

Practice makes an imperfect excuse

Last weekend I had an extremely enjoyable time at the Verbier music festival. The winter ski resort in Switzerland becomes home to some of the best classical music talent each summer and is also a showcase for some of the most promising young musicians around. The views, cable-car rides and mountain walks are pretty spectacular too.

Only one thing detracted from the experience. Two international stars, the tenor Rolando Villazon and the pianist Hélène Grimaud, were meant to be giving a recital together. Villazon was a particularly big draw. Neither turned up, and the official excuse pinned up on the festival office wall was not illness but that time had been "too short" for them to be able to rehearse together. My ticket with their names on was printed in May. How much time is needed for a rehearsal of presumably pretty familiar material? Classical music stars can be rather cavalier with their official excuses to audiences who pay £100 a ticket.

Is Sondheim ashamed of 'West Side Story'?

The Stephen Sondheim Prom showcased much of the composer/ lyricist's work, had cameo appearances by Dame Judi Dench and others, and saw Sondheim himself in the hall to acknowledge the applause. I'm only sorry that in the whole evening there was not a single song from West Side Story. Sondheim did not compose the music, of course. Leonard Bernstein did. But his lyrics were some of the cleverest ever written for a musical.

A West Side Story medley would have made a great encore. Was its absence a result of Sondheim's presence, I wonder? He is known to be dismissive of his youthful work on the musical, saying, for example, that he should never have given Maria, a simple Puerto Rican girl, words full of Noël Coward wit and rhymes in "I Feel Pretty". But since when were lyrics in a musical naturalistic? His West Side Story lyrics remain fantastic. They should have resounded from the Royal Albert Hall stage to 5,000 people applauding. Then he could have learnt to love them again.

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