FEATURE: Spotlight: Lizzo






PHOTO CREDIT: Michael  Prior for NME



THIS is where I highlight an artist who warrants...


more attention…or they might be on the cusp of explosion. In the case of Lizzo, she has been making some big moves and one feels she is close to headlining festivals! There is a general void when it comes to new headliners who can bring sass, party and a sense of confidence. We are seeing the same names being given a platform and, of the ones who have not headlined before, there is not a lot in the way of genuine pump and energy. I feel Lizzo has been around long enough and is perfectly capable of owning any headline stage. Let’s hope that comes next year because, right now, she is on fire! Lizzo grew up in Houston, Texas and moved to Minnesota by 2011. She perfumed with Indie groups whilst in Minnesota and also helped form a female three-piece Rap/R&B group. Lizzobangers came along in 2013 and, with a few years’ of musical experience behind her, many were amazed by the confidence and command throughout. Lizzo had been performing before 2011 but one feels her time in Minnesota was the most influential and productive period for her. Her debut seemed to come out of nowhere because, before 2013, there was nobody quite like Lizzo on the scene. The production from Lazerbreak and Ryan Olson helped lift the songs and bring all sorts of elements into the mix but it is Lizzo’s extraordinary confidence and energy that makes every song pop and fizz.



The Guardian , when reviewing the album, had this to say:

 “In this super-charged debut, which harks back to early-90s hip-hop, she delights in speeding it up, be it to dazzle male counterparts, as on Pants vs Dress, or simply as a release. At times joyfully nonsensical, Lizzo's stream-of-consciousness rhymes can also be lethally pointed. When she declares herself "the only rapper with a womb/ That'll spit that 16 bars to send you rappers to the tomb", it doesn't sound like an idle warning’”.

It was a stunning and ultra-cool introduction and it only took a couple of years for her to follow that with the amazing Big GRRRL Small World. There were a few more producers in the mix but, once more, it was Lizzo’s personality and talent that drove the record. From the start of her career, her voice has always been natural and completely different to anything around. You get some heat and humour alongside vivid images and some incredible choruses. The music has many different labels and the voice is that driving force. It is hugely evocative but has seduction and tender edges. It was clear, with songs like Betcha and Ride in its order, Lizzo’s second album was not going to be a disappointment. Perhaps a little stronger and more varied than her debut, Big GRRRL Small World was Lizzo armed with even more confident and sense of place.

The songs are incredibly fresh and still reveal new elements some four years after its release. DIY, when reviewing the record, was full of praise and keen observation:

Her deft wordplay and knowing winks haven’t gone completely – the lines “I swear there should be support groups for men without Lizzo / Meet once a week and deal with y’all issues / Google me and jack off into tissues” in ‘Ride’ can’t help but cause a quiet smile, for example - but ‘Big Grrrl Small World’ is an intentionally intense listen – Lizzo’s physical presence (a black woman,“statuesque and big as hell”) is placed meticulously front and centre.

“I woke up in this / in my skin” she sings in ‘My Skin’, with a wry nod to Beyoncé, “I can’t wash it away / So you can’t take it away from me / Brown skin.” “All my big beautiful big black booty girls”, ‘En Love’ shouts, “light skin, curly hair, afro in the air, love yourself like nobody can”.

It has been four years since her last album and, whilst some might say that is a long while to wait for new material, it seems Lizzo has not been idle. Recent singles Boys and Juice show she has retained her core sound but is addressing new subjects and adding even more into her music.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Pari Dukovic for The Cut

It is the way Lizzo fails to compromise and continues to evolve that amazes me. Cuz I Love You is out on 19th April and will be one of the most anticipated records of the year. Lizzo’s recent material is, in my view, her finest work and most addictive. I guess touring and time elapsed has helped create this quality but it seems Lizzo is growing stronger and more adventurous with each album. In this detailed and extensive interview with The Cut, Lizzo talked about her hobbies and past. Many might not know Lizzo played the flute – she is pretty decent actually!

The junior-high punks might have called her corny, but like most hobbies people mock you for in adolescence, it’s now one of her greatest assets. The flute is earning her Shade Room–blessed viral fame, especially after one particularly notable moment from a performance at the University of Iowa’s homecoming. As she tells it, that video was born out of a direct challenge to her ability to play the flute — or to perform at all. During sound check, a professor threatened to report her to campus police unless she showed permits. “The privilege that you have to have to walk up to young women, brown women, black women, and yell, ‘Do you have a permit to be here?’ While we’re clearly onstage with microphones singing and dancing,” says Lizzo, shaking off phantom pangs of annoyance.

It was not an easy start for Lizzo and one feels her rather humble upbringing is the reason she is such a determined and confident artist. Music, it seems, was one of very few companions for a young Lizzo:

Lizzo’s family moved to Houston from Detroit when she was 9. Her parents worked long hours building a succession of businesses, and her two older siblings were often doing their own thing, so music was an early babysitter. In sixth grade, “the flute chose her,” when her school’s band director asked Lizzo if she wanted to learn the instrument. At 14, she formed her first rap group, the Cornrow Clique, with two of her classmates and got her nickname, Lizzo. (She was originally Lissa, but Jay-Z’s “Izzo” was a popular song at the time.) She could rap — which should have made her popular — but she was in marching band, so she wasn’t. Also she smiled too much and laughed too loud. Sometimes she wore hippie clothes, like flowing shirts and bell-bottom jeans. She listened to Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie because her older sister did. She wore Uggs, the tipping point. Her classmates said she was “too white.” “But like, Lil Wayne also wore Uggs,” she points out.

Lizzo’s notoriously upbeat attitude has not come easily. She works hard to maintain that outward optimism and, as a person, she is always trying to make improvements and take care of herself.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Pari Dukovic for The Cut

When speaking with The Cut, she revealed how she managed to maintain so spirited and defiant:

Lizzo has always been open about the amount of work she does to maintain her stubbornly upbeat attitude. She goes to therapy. She’s improved her relationship with her mother. She’s canceled shows when she realized she wasn’t taking care of herself. She quotes her own lyrics to herself for motivation. Onstage that night at Kings Theatre, Williams and Robinson will ask her to give advice about self-care. She proudly owns, to the enthusiastic delight of the audience, being thick, being single, being black, being a woman, loving anime. “I started really doing work on like deep crevices of myself,” she explains. “I was like, Girl, do you love your back fat? Yeah, you do. Girl, you have a good ass, don’t think you have a bad ass!”

It is fascinating to see where Lizzo has come from and how she has grown. Her early life was not always easy and happy but her bond to music has seen her come so far. Not only is she a wonderful musician and singer but her sense of the eclectic and varied is amazing. In this interview with The Guardian last year, Lizzo talked about her eclectic nature:

 “I make all different types of music,” Lizzo explains, gesturing expansively to a buffet laid before us. “You see here, we got pineapples, we got croissants, we got sausages – which one you like? I feel like when you’re good at doing a lot of different styles, it hard to stick with one.” After working on the album for three years, this summer she finally laid down the songs that will make the cut. “I hit my stride. It was about embracing my singing voice.”

Not only is Lizzo’s confidence and multifarious nature impressive but she helps give a voice to plus-size people. She is a plus-size artist and, in an industry that is judgmental and promotes those skinny and beautiful, it is refreshing to see Lizzo strike out and show her curves. Lizzo is an artist who has succeeded in an industry that does concentrate on looks an ideal. She has some very clear views regarding body image:

As a plus-size woman of colour, Lizzo’s success is a respite in an often grimly misogynistic music industry. Her message is straightforward: love your body, have faith in your abilities, don’t let people treat you like shit. “I don’t need a crown to know that I’m a queen,” she croons on Scuse Me, her ode to masturbation – a topic she returns to on Ride. “I swear there should be support groups for men without Lizzo,” she raps. “Meet once a week and deal with y’all issues. Google me and jack off in a tissue!

There are a load of great interviews with Lizzo and I would recommend people check them out. Lizzo is open and revealing and keen to let people into her world. There are so many sides to her music and, as a woman, she is inspirational and fascinating. There is much to love about her but the way she speaks and how unforced her words are is refreshing to hear.

I think modern music is full of very cautious and uninteresting artists: Lizzo is the opposite and you always get something unique, funny and impressive. The final interview I want to bring in is the one she gave to NME last year. Lizzo talked about her fans’ feedback and which fans are most important to her – finishing off by talking about her upcoming album and its process:

I get messages from fans all the time,” she says. “I love them all equally, but the ones that really get me are from black women. I guess it’s because my music was indie-leaning for so long and I was in Minnesota, so my fanbase was white. I’m really grateful for that fanbase – they’ve supported me from the start and they continue to support me. But I’m a fat black woman from Detroit who grew up in Houston, and I make music from my experience for my experience. That includes everyone, you’re all welcome to my experience, but what I’m saying is my music is very personal. So when women from my kind of background reach out to me and say, ‘Where have you been all my life? You’re my mood, you’re helping me feel myself!’, that makes me feel like I’m finally getting into my purpose. And I think my purpose is bringing change to the people who need it the most.”

At the moment, Lizzo’s purpose is also working on her new album, but she says she’s in no rush to get it out. “Missy gave me the best advice,” she explains. “She told me to take my time. And honey, you’re not gonna see an album from me until it’s ready because of that!” 

Anyone who has not experienced the power of Lizzo should check her out. Read as many interviews as you can and familiarise yourself with her back catalogue. It is a fascinating picture of an artist who has no real equals. Lizzo’s music is extraordinary and so eclectic but it fascinating reading about her and what she has to say. She is a natural leader and voice that is raising awareness and fighting against prejudice; providing this incredible sense of passion and energy. I cannot wait to hear her upcoming album, Cuz I Love You, and what it has to offer. If the songs she has released in the past few months is any indication it looks likely to be her strongest and most varied. I love how she can add so much colour and vibrancy to every track. Her lyrics are incredible and packed with so many memorable lines. Lizzo’s firepower brings the songs to life and I can only imagine how amazing her live performances are. If you get a chance to see her live – check out her social media pages – then make sure you catch her. Everything combined leads to this amazing and titanic artist that is among the most impressive and rounded in music. You always get something different and memorable from Lizzo and, at a time when there are few artists who genuinely stand out, I think she is a true...



FORCE of nature!


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