A Common Love
IN THIS PHOTO: Stormzy at this year’s Glastonbury
The Wisdom of Queen Lizzo and the Power of King Stormzy
THERE are a couple of reasons I wanted to….
PHOTO CREDIT: Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty
bring up Lizzo and Stormzy but, for the most part, it all comes down to the inspiration they project from the stage. Both artists conquered Glastonbury and got everyone talking. I will talk in more specific detail soon but, in the case of Lizzo, she gaslvaised people and stirred us with messages of self-love and acceptance. Not only did she give this wild, exciting and supremely confident set at Glastonbury but she brought cheer and wonder to the crowd. These two artists, I feel, created something that went beyond the music. Sure, other acts like IDLES definitely got the people together and in fine voice but I feel there was something especially powerful from Lizzo and Stormzy’s sets. In Lizzo’s case, that positivity and need for people to love themselves could not help but register. The reviews were fierce and, as The Independent explained, Lizzo definitely captured the spirit of Glastonbury: “
“The 31-year-old’s music offers the perfect Saturday afternoon vibes – playful, rowdy, and so laden with personality that even the vulnerable moments are a joy to listen to. Two flute solos – which are very well played, but are special as much for the novelty as anything else – incite perhaps the most frenzied reaction of the weekend so far.
Lizzo is almost maniacally insistent that we all – every single member of a crowd she estimates to about “16 million thousand” – share in her self-love. There are motivational speeches aplenty littered throughout the set. Alongside rapper, singer and flautist, she could add motivational speaker to her resume.
During “Soulmate”, she instructs us to sing “I’m the one” over and over. “I need you to believe it,” she says. “If you can love me, you can love your goddamn self.” Amen”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Lizzo holds the crowd spellbound at Glastonbury/PHOTO CREDIT: DIY
In a tumultuous and tense time, how often do we stand back and take care of ourselves? I do think music is aimed towards an anger or a sense of depression. We are still hearing too many artists who are exposing their wounds and, whilst this is brave and real, it does not necessarily provide the relief and positivity we need? I do feel like we are all so anxious and aware of the horror around us. Whilst we cannot (and should not) hide it away and deny its existence, the impact it has on our physical and mental health is clear. Lizzo’s mantra is simple but is might not be easy: learn to love yourself. That might sound like a wise notion but how easy is it at a time when we are all sort of feeling the strain?! Her mantra is one we all need to consider in order to live a much more enriched and positive life. I want to bring in a piece Lizzo wrote herself that does not shy away from the complexities and real-world challenges that, to some, seems like a product of the 1960s – that feeling of all being together and, in order to do that, we need to love ourselves and find the good inside:
“…I don't think that loving yourself is a choice. I think that it's a decision that has to be made for survival; it was in my case. Loving myself was the result of answering two things: Do you want to live? 'Cause this is who you're gonna be for the rest of your life. Or are you gonna just have a life of emptiness, self-hatred and self-loathing? And I chose to live, so I had to accept myself.
That's the first step: Acceptance. And acceptance is hard. I'm still accepting myself every day; I'm still working on it.
Sometimes, you need therapy to help you learn to love yourself. I know that therapy is some privileged sh**, and the fact that I'm financially able to afford it, and that I was also in a place where I could accept the fact that I needed it, is incredibly fortunate.
And I also know that there's a stigma around therapy in the black community, and there had been for a long time, especially for black women. We're so strong, because of all that we have been put through, and how little we're sought after and looked out for. So, black women end up like, I got it. I don't need help. I'm handling this. That's why I tried to be strong for so long”.
If you did not see Lizzo’s Glastonbury set then there are clips online (including her version of Juice) and it shows how much love there is for Lizzo. Whilst Lizzo recognises the fact we need to embrace ourselves, for better or worse, she is not promoting something magical or airy-fairy: the reality is that it will be hard and, for those in the black community, there is a sense of stigma. I have heard some social media comments that ask why Lizzo cannot be a ruler; a leader who has the common touch but is tough. It is interesting. I think Lizzo is more than an exponent of self-acceptance and love; she promotes body-positivity and is a figurehead for strong women everywhere.
I do feel we are getting more tired and depressed and, rather than hope for the world to change and bury our heads in the sand, there is something in all of us that can help make the world better. If we are not in touch with ourselves and have that weight on our shoulders then that can be really destructive. An artist who can deliver more than music should be applauded. Lizzo never preaches in a maniacal or insistent way: simply, she has this force and rush that one cannot help but love and admire. I admit there were many female role models at Glastonbury who will inspire for years to come. From Sharon Van Etten, Billie Eilish; Kylie Minogue, Little Simz and Christine and the Queens – so many bold and brilliant performers. I think Lizzo is the Queen of Glastonbury and she performed that near-impossible trick: raising and uniting people through joy and urging them to think deeply about themselves and loving who they are. If one wants to crown a King of Glastonbury then, again, there were options. IDLES played a blinding set whilst DAVE and slowthai cannot be faulted – the same goes for The Chemical Brothers and The Cure! There is no denying that people had reservations when Stormzy was announced as a Glastonbury headliner. For an artist who has only one album, Gang Signs & Prayer, under his belt, many were not sure whether the London-born rapper would be able to handle the pressure and deliver.
Apart from other random moaning about Glastonbury – was the BBC’s blanket coverage a good idea? among them – one cannot deny the quality on show. To me, the women owned the festival – including great sets from Miley Cyrus and Sigrid – but there was one man who seemed to represent what Glastonbury was all about: Stormzy delivered big messages and anger (arriving in a Union Flag bullet-proof vest and getting the crowd to give a middle finger to Boris Johnson) but, like Lizzo, there was this need for the people to gather and feel the love. If Lizzo’s message of self-love was more personal and intimate, Stormzy’s widescreen performance called for a large-scale movement and revolution. His Friday headline set gathered huge reviews. Here is one report from The Guardian:
“It’ll go down in our country’s cultural history.”
Musicians, politicians and fans have hailed the rapper Stormzy after he became the first black solo British headliner at Glastonbury festival, opening to a spectacular pyrotechnic display on the Pyramid stage”.
In other review with The Guardian, Alexis Petridis explored the human side of Stormzy’s set. Here he writes how Stormzy, both humble and aflame, managed to deliver a huge high:
“For all the eye-popping, OTT aspects of the show, there’s something very human and touching at its centre. When not imperiously rapping, Stormzy looks genuinely overwhelmed by the size of the crowd he’s drawn on what he describes as “the greatest night of my life”. Another guest, fellow rapper Dave, congratulates Stormzy at length on his achievements before leaving the stage, and, under the circumstances, it doesn’t feel like hyperbole. As Dave seems to suggest, Stormzy’s sheer charisma and talent have elevated an entire generation of black British music. Stormzy himself pays tribute to a string of new-school British rappers as varied as Little Simz, Not3s and Slowthai – and all of them would not be in such a strong position without Stormzy”.
Before I round things off and explain why I feel Lizzo and Stormzy created such iconic sets, author Zadie Smith has penned a feature for The New Yorker that casts Stormzy as a king:
“Onstage, “killing it” is a thing always fated—a special kind of destiny—and yet simultaneously self-created, moment by moment. You have to earn what has already been given. “I feel like the twenty-five years of my life,” the young king insisted, visibly moved, as he looked out upon a crowd bigger than Agincourt, “have all led up to this moment.” It was the definitive line in a monumental drama, performed at a consistent hundred and forty b.p.m., with as many memorized verses as may be found in any of our great tragedies, yet with only one man onstage to say them all. Who managed to bring forth, upon that unworthy scaffold, a tale about the state of the nation, about the place of the black peoples within that nation, and his own place within both. Who used the stagecraft of the court—ballet, choral music, jesters doing wheelies, dancing acrobats—to tell the court he had arrived.
I think Smith articulated the strengths of Stormzy greater than anyone else. How she talks about his dignity and fire; the contrasts that make him both accessible but untouchable. Here, in this passage, she remarks (on Stormzy’s) human anxieties and his anger regarding those in power:
All things are ready, if the mind be so—if the mind be merky. Covetousness, fury, passion, attitude, desire—the much maligned skills of the street—were now concentrated and trained upon the task at hand. Fair nature was disguised with hard-favored rage, which was itself harnessed and offered outward, to the people, as a kind of service, so that they might express their own feelings of wrath.
(Fuck Boris!) Yet the young king did not hide his own anxieties, nor shy from the resentments and harsh judgments of others. Once, such a man could walk cloaked and incognito through the field, listening to the people run him down and curse his name; now he lurks on Twitter, absorbing ego death by two hundred and eighty characters. Yet, if the crown is heavy, he wears it well. He pays his dues. He makes pragmatic alliances with red-headed kings of expedient countries. He references his elders without entirely bowing to them”.
It is true that Stormzy ascended to a higher plain after his Glastonbury set! He managed to echo the sentiments felt by the masses regarding the state of politics and delivered an almost sermon-like explosion that was spiritual, inflamed and raw. It was also human and very real. This was not an artist hiding behind ego and arrogance: instead, here stood a pioneer and leader, not only for the black community and his peers, but the nation (and world) as a whole. Catch Stormzy storm it here and, together with Lizzo, Glastonbury 2019 has to go down as one of the all-time great festivals! Lizzo’s insanely good set provided many musical highlights, yet it was her desire for the people to love one another that stood out – as she has explained in interviews, the way to realise self-acceptance and love is as much about seeking help and guidance as anything else. Both Lizzo and Stormzy are incredible role models. Lizzo’s empowerment, body-positive aesthetic and positivity goes beyond women and the black community – she is speaking to each and every one of us. The same can be said for Stormzy. Both has challenger when it came to the King and Queen of Glastonbury crown (for Stormzy, IDLES and The Chemical Brothers were near; Lizzo had Kylie Minogue, Janelle Monáe and a host of others) but all challengers were defeated. Both performers created a sense of harmony and strength but they made us think; they delivered their music with heart and soul and, during a particularly hot Glastonbury, Lizzo and Stormzy…
PHOTO CREDIT: DIY
LIT a fire that will burn for years.