Lizzo’s personality is at the forefront of debut album ‘Cuz I Love You,’ but within the album’s playful catchiness and her abundance of attitude is the motivation to ensure nobody gets in your way.
Stream: Cuz I Love You – Lizzo
Imagine that you’re looking into a mirror but, rather than strands of hair, words in marker pen flow from your head and, instead of bone structure and curves, motivational speech forms the building blocks of your body. Things such as “I woke up this morning (God) / Wrong side of the bed / I don’t have to ‘splain it, oh (How I feel)/ I might be a bitch (Bitch) / I might make a friend (Friend) / Ain’t I so amazing? (Uh-huh)” and “And she never tell me to exercise / We always get extra fries / And you know the sex is fire / And I gotta testify / I get flowers every Sunday / I’ma marry me one day,” stare back at you, their presence being part of the first inspection of an outfit that’s preparing you for the day.
Lizzo, to put it simply, is bold. Her presence is bold, her music is bold, her motives are bold. The album Cuz I Love You (released 19 April) is her major label debut and with this increase in attention comes a heightened pedestal for empowerment. The album is intended to make you feel good about yourself, holding an infectious liveliness that encourages the body- with all its perfections and flaws- to move and let loose. Lead single “Juice”, for example, is compiled of the funk-induced catchiness enjoyed by all ages while “Soulmate”’s blend of playful rap and explosive pop has the effect of making you want to dance around and aggressively push things out of the way both at the same time.
When pop stars base songs around self-love and body image it can often feel forced and cringey (“Perfect To Me” by Anne- Marie and “Thursday” by Jess Glynn being two recent examples). There is conscious marketability to Cuz I Love You, notably present in “Like a Girl” and lines such as “Lauryn Hill told me everything is everything (we can do it)/ Serena Willy showed me I can win the Wimbledon (we can do it)” with their easy references. But it also feels controlled, all part of the Lizzo package and that boldness that she owns.
Cause I run it (Like a girl)
Run it, run it (Like a girl)
I work my femininity
I make these boys get on their knees
Now watch me do it, watch me do it
Look it, look it, I’ma do it
Like a girl (Like a girl)
Like a girl (Like a girl)
“Like a Girl”, Lizzo
Taking ownership is a key message throughout Cuz I Love You‘s 11 tracks. Lizzo takes into account gender stereotypes (“sugar, spice, and I’m nice” and “They used to say to get a man, you had to know how to look/ They used to say to keep a man, you had to know how to cook”) and then often subverts them with a no-nonsense attitude. She takes conventional beauty standards and flicks them away while strutting ahead through life. “Pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pitty-pat (Pat)/ Look at my ass, it’s fitty-fitty-fat (Fat)” she raps in “Tempo,” a heavy beat-backed track featuring Missy Elliott, while stating in the chorus: “slow songs, they for skinny hoes… I’m a thick bitch, I need tempo.”
There are moments of dependence too, though. In the powerfully soulful opener “Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo sings:
I would do it for you all, my friend
Ready, baby? Will you be my man?
Wanna put you on a plane
Fly you out to wherever I am…
I don’t know what I’m gon’ do
I’m cryin’ ’cause I love you’
– “Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo
with earnest emotion. Then, at the other end, closing track “Lingerie” is harmoniously erotic, the kind of track to make guys (or anyone) feel horny when listening. Yet still we’re under the impression that it’s all Lizzo’s decisions – that she’s teasing the lover along and making them need her. Whatever the emotion, whether lust, narcissism, underrepresentation, Cuz I Love You intends to assure us that we should embrace what makes us who we are regardless of what other people may think.
“So I lounge around in my lingerie
I wanna be prepared for you just in case
So I lounge around in my lingerie
You better come my way
I don’t got no secrets you don’t know
These panties are see-through,
I’m exposed, yeah”
– “Lingerie,” Lizzo
For moments of vulnerability, “Exactly How I Feel” (featuring Gucci Mane) paints perhaps the clearest picture. “Can’t hold back my tears/ That would be a crime/ ‘Cause I look pretty cryin’’, she asserts while, upon a harmless Prince-like groove, reminding us that “Love me or hate me/ Ooh, I ain’t changing/ And I don’t give a fuck, no”. If you need to cry then there is no shame in that but to cry because you’re comparing yourself to others isn’t worthy of any time.
Lizzo has always been vocal, this album being a continuation of previous material in that regard, thus the full-on embracing of individuality holds extra significance now that more spotlight is placed upon her. It shouldn’t be the case- today or ever- but as black, large, and a woman, she can be seen as representing multiple marginalised aspects of society, particularly when it comes to the media. The album cover is a simple, effective response to this: Lizzo sat alone, completely naked, baring quite a lot with a look of defiance on her face. It’s glossy, yes, but in a way this just adds to an overall questioning of beauty standards.
Overall, however, an artist’s music can revolve around parts of themselves but it opens up to a wider audience and as listeners we feel involved. Whatever the emotion depicted in Cuz I Love You, whether lust, narcissism, underrepresentation, Lizzo intends to assure us that we should embrace what makes us who we are regardless of what other people may think.
On a side note, Lizzo recently published a tweet exclaiming, “People who ‘review’ albums and don’t make music themselves should be unemployed,” as an indirect dig at an album review. It was odd and I don’t agree with it, but music writing and the entitlement of music writing is something I actually find myself thinking about a lot. I often wonder what relevance the things I have to say has, and why anyone (if they even do) should care. Like with all things, when people have knowledge and insight it’s always more fascinating (for example, conversational interviews where both people are on the same level). When it comes to reviews, I sometimes wonder what the point is when music is so subjective. But then, that’s also part of the point: Music makes us feel things, and whether you’re a professional music journalist or doing it for free, whether you practice music yourself or are just a fan, writing about it is just another way (in addition to talking) of sharing and embracing the art – which is particularly important with new and lesser known artists where communities can continue to be built.
The tweet drew attention to Lizzo but it was kind of fitting when the album is mostly about drawing attention to the self. Lizzo’s ‘Cuz I Love You’ is a lesson in self-love, but self-love, naturally, is elevated when there’s positivity around you, too.
? © Luke Gilford