"The Fear" is a song by British recording artist Lily Allen from her second studio album, It's Not Me, It's You. Written by Allen and Greg Kurstin, the song was released as the lead single of the album. Initially, "Everyone's At It" was announced to be the first single; however, it was ultimately decided on "The Fear" to be released on 26 January 2009 by Regal Recordings, while the demo leaked onto the internet in April 2008. The song incorporates electropop music as the lyrics tackle the problems with celebrity lifestyles and include metaphors for recognized British newspapers, as well as sarcasm. Contemporary critics complimented the song and its theme of materialism, although some called it a cliché and an understatement for Allen's past media controversies. The single peaked inside the top twenty of the charts of some European countries and Australia, while staying on the summit of the UK Singles Chart for four consecutive weeks. It is also the singer's second chart entry in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The accompanying music video portrayed a fantasy theme, with Allen dancing with giant packed gifts and balloons. It was shot at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, England and also featured dancers dressed as butlers; the locations were initially in a caravan in a park, and then in a giant colorful mansion, surrounded by contrasting Grey clouds. The song was performed live for the first time via The Scott Mills Show on BBC Radio 1 and during Allen's 2009 concert tour. "The Fear" was awarded with Best Track prize at the 2009 Q Awards, and also won Allen two Ivor Novello Awards in 2010, for best song musically and lyrically, and most performed work. Initially, the song "Everyone's At It" was announced to be released as the lead single from the album, but it was ultimately decided on "The Fear". While discussing It's Not Me, It's You, Allen stated that her intention was to make "bigger sounding, more ethereal songs, real songs. [...] I think I've grown up a bit as a person and I hope it reflects that." She released a demo version of the song, which was then called "I Don't Know", onto her MySpace account, along with another song, "I Could Say", in April 2008. The singer declared about the inspiration for the song:
[I'll] tell you where the inspiration for it came from. I was walking down this street, in this village in the middle of the countryside in the U.K., and there was this little girl who must have been eight or nine, walking down the street with her mom in, like, high-waisted hot pants and a little crop top. And I just thought, 'That's not really right.' And I could tell she was the kind of girl that would be trying out for Pop Idol in five years time, and wants to be famous when she grows up. And there's definitely the whole culture of that where I come from, and it's not necessarily a culture that I think is particularly healthy. But at the same time, I'm very aware that I am a part of that culture — but it's not something that I feel particularly comfortable with.
Musically, Allen adopts a more mature electropop groove for the song, which has been described to have "a pulsing, sleekly modern electro dance backing", while coming through a "flood of soft synths" and being "eminently danceable and slightly trances". It is set in common time and in the key of F major and has a metronome of 136 beats per minute. Allen's voice spans from D flat to B flat. Lyrically, the song is a rant about materialism "sung in the voice of a would-be starlet", and tackles societal consumerism and overnight-fame-hunting. It also makes reference, through the line "I'll look at the sun and I'll look in the mirror", at the daily British tabloid newspapers The Sun and The Mirror, which often report on Allen. The synthesiser parts were written by Greg Kurstin using Apple's Logic Studio, using its built-in instruments.
The Fear (Song) Lyrics
The music video was principally at shot at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, England and directed by Nez. It premiered in the UK via Channel 4 on 4 December 2008. It starts off with Allen singing from a caravan window, while a clothes line on the right has underwear and a teddy-bear hanging from it. As she exits, her clothes are revealed to be a smock dress with a big bow and high heels; upon returning through the caravan door, the interior changes to that of a luxurious mansion, in reality an English country estate. The chorus starts and she walks down the hall, surrounded by butlers, all making synchronized moves and starting a choreography with Allen. Afterwards, she climbed the stairs and the camera cuts to the next scene, where she is sitting down in front of the mirror in an extravagant bedroom, with dresses, lamps, toys and cupcakes. The scene changes once again, with Allen walking into a room with giant, brightly colored presents. They suddenly stand up, having two human legs, and begin to spin around, with the singer joining them. After descending the stairs and walking through the same hall she entered, she exits the estate, and the video takes down a darker, more serious tone, while the verse "Forget about guns and forget ammunition/'Cause I'm killing them all on my own little mission/Now I’m not a saint but I’m not a sinner/Now everything is cool as long as I’m getting thinner" is sung. The euphoric visual effects appear once again soon after, as the chorus takes place. Allen walks down the estate stairs, being surrounded by dancing balloons, hopping butlers and colored fog. The camera zooms out showing the estate tied in a giant ribbon, but also Grey, melancholic clouds, which contrast the cheerful party from before. Allen stated that she hoped the music video would convey parts of the song's sarcasm. The video reportedly cost £50,000. During the shoot, the video was documented by MTV; in the interview, Allen declared:
I wanted to do a dance routine, even though I'm not really doing a dance routine, other people are doing it, but I'm part of it. I think people are quite used to girls in this industry really being able to move in front of the camera, but I'm just rubbish at that kind of thing. I find it quite nerve-racking performing, actually. Because when you write songs, you don't really think about performing in a video. I think it's quite fun. Lots of colour and dancing, and it's about doing something that's in keeping with the song, actually.
While being invited to the BBC show hosted by Scott Mills, Allen talked about her struggles with the paparazzi and also premiered the song by performing it live. Other live performances of the song include the Sound on BBC 2 with Nick Grimshaw and Annie Mac, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, the Orange unsigned Act, and The Sunday Night Project. In February 2009, she was invited at The Today Show with Matt Lauer, where she performed the song after an interview. The same month, she made an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and while she was singing, DeGeneres freely dispensed copies of It's Not Me, It's You to the audience. Afterwards, both Allen and DeGeneres made a rendition of the song "Womanizer" by American singer Britney Spears. Allen included the song on her 2009 concert tour set list, as part of the encore. "The Fear" was also performed at the 2010 BRIT Awards, as the opening song. Allen arrived on stage sitting on a rocket hoisted in the air, while wearing a black corset dress. She was later joined on stage by paratroopers dressed in pink military camouflage and women with Silver Cross prams.