“Special” by Lizzo is a chaotic disco-pop confidence booster

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After a three-year hiatus, it was “damn about time” for Grammy-winner Lizzo to drop her highly-anticipated album, Special, on July 15. The album demonstrates Lizzo’s confidence and courage through her vulnerability; However, her main theme, promoting confidence and self-love, is confused by some of her lyricism.

Lizzo became one of the most influential artists in the music industry thanks to her powerful, body-positive hits. Her song “Truth Hurts” earned her the title of longest-running female solo rapper on the Billboard Hot 100. “Special” also comes at a booming time in Lizzo’s career — just days before the album’s release, Lizzo earned six Emmys -Nominations for the first season of their reality competition series Watch Out For The Big Grrrls.

“Special” follows Lizzo through the final years of her life, detailing her experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, her struggles in her love life, and her advocacy for mental and physical health.

“I felt a lot of pressure to follow ‘Cuz I Love You’ with more bangers,” Lizzo told Apple Music. “Or to capture that Lizzo from the post-‘Truth Hurts’ single-girl era. But concepts have never been my thing. It feels like I’m lying. Instead, I just wrote honestly about where I’ve been and who I’ve become over the past few years.”

Lizzo opens her album with two perfect accents: “The Sign” and “About Damn Time”. The songs are comeback kickoffs that begin with a cheeky greeting and lead into a discussion about the importance of healing and moving on. With infectiously energetic and heartbreaking vocals and funky disco-pop melodies heard on “Everybody’s Gay” and “Birthday Girl,” they herald the faster pace of the rest of the album.

“Grrrls” received initial backlash when it was first released for containing a ableistic slur, to which Lizzo answered on her Twitter account and changed the text. While the goal behind the song is to celebrate women who stand together and are independent, it samples the Beastie Boys’ sexist track “Girl” from 1987. Additionally, its lyrics fall short of that message. The line “I’m go Lorena Bobbitt on him so he never fuck again” turns a harrowing case of violence and abuse into a quick “girls-just-want-to-have-fun” punchline. That makes it difficult to put “Grrrls” on the list of women’s empowerment songs, as the track could have used a more critical and scrutinizing view of the impact of patriarchy on women and sisterhood.

“I Love You Bitch” also lacks lyrical quality – it doesn’t capture the deep meaning that love songs usually make you understand and feel. Lyrics like “I said, give your heart, no repo / found me out, no cheat code / give your hoodie if I’m cold” show the song’s superficiality.

However, there are a few songs on the album that are both lyrically beautiful and clearly convey the album’s theme. The album’s namesake, Special, delves into a major issue of our century: culture and online bullying. Throughout her career, Lizzo has received many hurtful comments about her body, race, and music. In an interview with Good Morning America, she said that while she doesn’t mind criticism of her music or her body, she feels these treatments shouldn’t fly. As an artist, she also sees it as her task to reflect on this. In “Special,” Lizzo reminds people that everyone needs space to be themselves, to express their specialness, and to grow.

This message is echoed in two other songs: “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)”, which also features Max Martin, and “Naked”. The funky “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)” features Lizzo’s most powerful lyric on the album, with lines like “How am I supposed to love someone else/when I don’t like myself?” In “Naked” we see the more vulnerable side von Lizzo, while sharing her thoughts on self-love and the body, sings, “I wish we could live without the expectations of the body,” and asks, “If I get the gist of you, do you promise to embrace it?” Her swelling Vocals overlay a dramatic, light acoustic arrangement reminiscent of a late 1970’s Philly soul bedroom soundtrack.

The album’s final songs are weaker than the rest. “Birthday Girl” is certainly not the album’s best song – it’s just there to boost your confidence with festive instrumental content. The album’s romantic closing track, “Coldplay,” doesn’t quite feel like a farewell, but its vulnerable and personal nature still makes it a viable candidate for closing the album.

Lizzo offers a “special” performance to bolster her and your confidence in this album, but at times it felt chaotic, oscillating between disco dance songs and deeply emotional melodies with lyrics lacking in nuance. However, her purpose behind the album, to encourage people to appreciate their true selves while having the time of their lives, comes through. Some of the songs that lacked lyrical potential were made up for by Lizzo’s upbeat vocals.

While not necessarily breaking new ground based on the pop persona she showcased in “Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo experiments with 1980s and disco tunes in addition to her usual hip-hop style. She’s not afraid to be honest about her feelings and this album has shown her true self to herself, loved ones and the world.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts, and criticism.

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