“Hi motherf—–, did you miss me?” is the refrain superstar Lizzo uses to open her latest album, “Special.”
But really, how else should we expect Lizzo to start her album?
On July 15, Lizzo released her fourth studio album (her second on a major label), “Special.” The album spans 12 tracks and is filled to the brim with anthems about self-love, loving someone else, and knowing your worth. “Special” comes after the three years since Lizzo’s 2019 mainstream breakout record, “Cuz I Love You.”
So yes Lizzo, we did miss you.
Even after just one listen, it’s clear “Special” showcases Lizzo at her most relaxed, having tons of fun. Very little feels forced and the record feels authentically Lizzo.
Leading up to the release of “Special,” Lizzo took a break from releasing music after her incredible success in 2019, including the revival of her song “Truth Hurts,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 two years after its initial release. In August 2021, she released “Rumors” featuring popular rapper Cardi B, which performed moderately well but was not included on her latest full-length project.
“Special” opens with “The Sign,” a power-packed first track that recaps what she’s been up to in her time away from the spotlight: “I’ve been home since 2020 / I’ve been twerkin’ and making smoothies, it’s called healing / And I feel better since you seen me last.” This first track gives a good sense of what’s to come on the record. Lizzo acts as a teacher of sorts, and the listener is her student as she guides them through the central topic of love and independence.
However, she doesn’t aim to know it all, as evidenced in the single-worthy Max Martin-produced track, “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready).” While Lizzo usually has it all figured out, on this track, she narrates the end of one relationship and her hesitancy to get into a new one when she is struggling to maintain self-love. Some may be quick to assume that Lizzo doesn’t shine as bright when not 100% sure of herself, but the opposite is the case. “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)” is Lizzo in conversation with herself, going from asking “How am I supposed to love somebody else / When I don’t even like myself?” contrasted with reassurances that, “I’m in my bed, I’m way too fine to be here alone / On other hand, I know my worth.”
Of course, the biggest hit thus far from “Special” is the single “About Damn Time,” initially released in April of this year. Infectiously funky, “About Damn Time” sounds influenced by Diana Ross’ 1980 classic, “I’m Coming Out.” “About Damn Time” doesn’t pack as much punch as some of Lizzo’s past lead singles, but it fits right into “Special” as an album. The song does sound like it should spur a viral TikTok hit though, with its verses easily fitting into the 15-second video format of the video-sharing platform. Whether it was intentional or not, “About Damn Time” has turned into a viral TikTok dance trend. To date, the song has been used 2.2 million times by TikTok users, which has promoted the song immensely. “About Damn Time” has spent 13 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and has recently taken the No. 1 spot on the chart, earning Lizzo her second No. 1 song.
“Special” is subtly split into two halves, with the first being filled with more radio-friendly material, and the second half focusing on ballads and more experimental sounds. In the middle of the record is the title track, “Special,” on which Lizzo encourages fans, “I’m used to feeling alone, oh / So I thought that I’d let you know / In case nobody told you today / You’re special.” This is especially encouraging coming from Lizzo, as she’s been vocal about the challenges and prejudice she’s faced as a plus-sized Black woman in the industry.
A standout on the latter half is “Everybody’s Gay,” an upbeat and lush production that glitters like a Jackson 5 number. As with much of the album, the best way to describe songs like “Everybody’s Gay” is with words like “groovy,” “funky” and “celebratory.” “Everybody’s Gay” celebrates identity, “About Damn Time” celebrates feeling good in your skin, and “Grrrls” celebrates having ride-or-die friends. The best way to think about the album’s overall theme is as a celebration of love. Whether it’s love for yourself, your friends, or a romantic partner, Lizzo laces her music with love all throughout the record, perfect for every sort of situation the listener might be in.
Thinking back to 2019’s “Cuz I Love You,” “Special” echoes some of the same stylings. Upon my first listen, I could not help but feel that some of the material on “Special” emulates “Cuz I Love You” a little too closely. As I listened more, I felt that this new album didn’t “copy and paste” like I thought it initially did. Perhaps I only felt this way because “Cuz I Love You” was my introduction to her, but her 2019 record does indeed sound more sonically diverse with more varying experimentation than “Special.” Some music on her new album may sound familiar to “Cuz I Love You,” but that’s mainly because Lizzo has found her perfect formula for creating music, and has built upon it. Just like in math, she’s taken a formula and applied it to a new “problem” to create a new solution. Unfortunately, one of the few tracks on the new album that outright falls flat is “I Love You B—-” because of its overly repetitive chorus and lackluster lyrical composition.
The variation that appears on “Special” can be found in the second half, on songs like “If You Love Me” and “Coldplay.” “If You Love Me” is a great demonstration of a more stripped-down version of the same message conveyed on “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready).” Lizzo faces her insecurities and instructs her new lover, “When the world can’t love me to my face / When the mirror lies and starts to break / Hold me close, don’t let me run away.”
With the closing track, “Coldplay,” she recalls a full story of falling in love with her partner while still leaving room to imagine their unwritten future together. “And I just know it / That in this life / My love is you, ooh / (And everything you do).” The song samples Coldplay’s famous song “Yellow,” which adds to the sweet nostalgic feeling of the song. “Coldplay” wraps up the record with a powerful moment of clarity and optimism, resolving whatever feelings of confusion and struggle were expressed throughout the rest of the album.
Not only does Lizzo’s latest LP remind fans they’re “Special,” but it also shows fans that if Lizzo can love herself despite the odds, so can you.