Is it any wonder that Lizzo’s star is on the rise right now?
Is it any wonder that Lizzo’s star is on the rise right now? In a pop landscape often dominated by half-baked torch songs about men who don’t deserve to be pined over and needless, behind-the-scenes girl hate (I’m looking at you, Taylor Swift), listeners need something that not only helps distract from the realities of the world outside of the music, but also doesn’t make them hate themselves. As we move into a world where self-care and self-love are an accepted item in the modern hierarchy of needs, our pop music should move to match that, able to make you feel good about yourself, on your own, regardless of how sexy you might feel.
Enter Lizzo and Cuz I Love You, her third full-length album (and her first on Atlantic) – which is pure joy and self-love from front to back. It’s the rap game equivalent of a radically empowering TED Talk, but in the best possible ways. Every song contains some line that can be used as a personal mantra – “I am my own soulmate, I know how to love me, I know that I’m always gonna hold me down” (“Soulmate”), “If I’m shinin’, everybody gonna shine/ I was born like this, don’t even gotta try/ I’m like chardonnay, get better over time” (“Juice”). If there’s one drawback to this, it’s that these positive affirmations can feel a little bit hollow at times – though admittedly the experience of seeing her talk about these songs at length when she performs helps flesh this out. Lizzo’s pure swagger turns one-liners that can sound like “Live Laugh Love” knock-off decor into dance floor-ready personal affirmations worthy of shouting in the car with your friends. With any luck, she’ll learn to balance this out for her next record.
The energy of Cuz I Love You is, unsurprisingly, totally infectious. Every song here is under four minutes long, with the shortest (“Better in Color”) falling around the two-and-a-half minute mark. While this means that a handful of songs struggle to leave a lasting impression even after a few listens, it’s remarkable how truly massive Lizzo and her stable of producers made every song. From the get-go, the X Ambassadors-produced “Cuz I Love You” (largely an excuse for Lizzo to show us how damn good her pipes are) crackles with big band energy, with the beat bounding along with the piano. Meanwhile “Jerome,” Lizzo’s personal “I Will Survive” for the fuccboi set, with “Shoulda changed that stupid lock/ Shoulda made you leave your key” switched for “2 AM photos with smileys and hearts/ Ain’t the way to my juicy parts,” is the best of their three songs here, a murky number with energy reminiscent of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” The best of the bunch is “Tempo,” a career-best for Lizzo, a gloriously filthy trap beat infused banger that tactically deploys a classic Missy Elliott guest verse that practically begs for her return to the charts.
The biggest flaw in Cuz I Love You is that the songs that work really work (see: “Soulmate,” “Juice,” “Tempo”), but an unevenness plagues the album, and after the Gucci Mane-featuring “Exactly How I Feel,” the memorability of the album begins to decline. “Better in Color,” while fun (“Big dick energy/ Tastes like collard greens” is one of the album’s best laugh out loud moments) simply ends up feeling unfocused, a similar trap that ‘Heaven Help Me” falls into. Closer “Lingerie” is a gorgeous slow number, but while I entirely respect the bold move of closing the humongous energy of Cuz I Love You with everyone wanting far, far more, it does leave a “Wait, that’s it?” feeling in the end. That feeling is clearly not what Lizzo intended, which makes it easier to respect the fact that she knows that this is just going to leave us ravenous for the next one. Though imperfect, Cuz I Love You is the great leap forward that long-time fans of Lizzo have been waiting for, catapulting her into the upper echelons of stardom.