Pop culture is headed to the ’80s and Lizzo is behind the wheel to take us there.
Just a few days after receiving an Emmy nomination for her Amazon Prime show “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” the feel-good singer and performer on Friday released her fourth studio album, “Special.” The album comes three years after 2019’s Grammy-winning “Cuz I Love You.”
Like a rollercoaster, the 35 minutes of “Special” takes listeners to the crest of a hill, with high-energy selections including its first single “About Damn Time,” before dropping them down to reflective love ballad “Coldplay,” which finishes the project. Both the highs and the lows of “Special” are backed with synthesized melodies, harpsichord-like pings and many other instruments but, surprisingly, not much flute.
Lizzo said she wrote “175 to 200 songs” in an April interview with Sirius XM’s The Heat, and only 12 made the album. But Lizzo wasn’t completely gone from the spotlight, popping in with “Rumors” featuring Cardi B in August and making social media posts of her “twerking and making smoothies,” which she lays out in the album’s opening song, “The Sign.”
The 34-year-old musician described “Special” as a “no skips classic album” during her iHeartRadio album listening party a few hours before the project hit streaming platforms. Here are some Lizzo soon-to-be classics sure to make a lasting impression.
‘About Damn Time’
Lizzo’s earworm single “About Damn Time” still shines bright among the lineup of never-before-heard songs. Heavy plucks of bass guitar open the song and carry its self-assuring groove, which has taken over TikTok and other social media platforms.
The video for the single depicting Lizzo as a disco diva, complete with sequins and big hair, was a foreshadowing of what “Special” holds: a return to the carefree dance era of decades in the past.
Right after “About Damn Time,” Lizzo lines up her second single “Grrrls,” which makes listeners comfortable with familiar songs before taking on some of the new hits.
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‘2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)’
The fourth track of “Special” sounds both distant and familiar with a synthesized organ setting the foundation for what sounds like a song to back the end credits of an 80’s movie.
“2 Be Loved” paints a picture of the anxiety that comes with allowing yourself to fall in love again after recovering from a failed relationship, “Am I ready (You gon’ figure it out)
To be loved, to be loved? (Yeah).”
The song is partially produced by Swedish producer Max Martin, the same hands behind The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” and has similar ’80s drums and strums with a climactic key change after Lizzo realizes she is, in fact, ready for love.
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Lizzo considers Beyoncé her “North Star,” and the two artists seem to be on the same club-urging agenda with their new music. “Everybody’s Gay,” which channels Donna Summer and Diana Ross and interpolates Rick James’ “Give it to Me Baby,” is Lizzo’s installment to get up, dance and sweat the night away to disco music filled with fast-paced drums and energetic horns.
The encouraging chorus commands people to reveal their true selves by taking their “mask off,” which could also be a double entendre for the masks worn during the coronavirus pandemic, which kept many people shut in their homes.
“We can take our mask off / We can all ball and parlay / I can hardly wait,” she chants.
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Lizzo often bares her body and soul publicly, with scantily clad social media posts and physically naked album artwork for “Cuz I Love You,” as well as her unfiltered thoughts and opinions on body positivity and response to public criticism.
“Naked” is a sensual song on “Special” that embraces the beauty of baring it all without conforming to society’s body expectations. Even the record feels raw and simple, opening with Al Green-adjacent guitar plucks and the static that plays when putting a needle on top of a vinyl record.
“Beauty is a gift, but curses everyone that chase it / I wish we could live without no body expectations.”
The last song on Lizzo’s “Special” is a true love song, despite three preceding tracks have love in the title. Sampling Coldplay’s “Yellow,” hence the title, Lizzo sings admiringly about her love interest as she croons about their romantic trip to Tulum, Mexico, how they dance without music and reveals some of the intimate details about the relationship.
The singer revealed her significant other on Instagram in June, shuffling a few pictures of her and her date on the red carpet for her Emmy-nominated show “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.”
She also wore a ring on her gloved hand without explanation for the rock, but she did show a picture of her and the mystery man hand-in-hand.
“And I just know it (I just know it) / That in this life (Ah) / My love is you.”