tue 09/08/2022

Album: Lizzo - Special | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Lizzo - Special

Album: Lizzo - Special

Is the law of diminishing returns setting in for one of the hardest working entertainers in showbiz?

You can’t really blame Lizzo for playing to her strengths. When she started putting out records some nine years ago, there wasn’t really a niche in the market for a flute playing, twerking, positive-thinking, plus-size rapper-stroke-disco-diva.

Roundly ignored by the mainstream “urban” American music industry despite her obvious abundant talent, she went about building her own diverse – but leaning female and/or LGBTQ+ – cult following, which grew fast until she couldn’t be ignored. Without changing or dialling down her approach, this eventually resulted in her 2019 ascent to global mega fame with her first major label album Cuz I Luv You.

This is her first album since that, and it’s already generated one ubiquitous smash in “About Damn Time” (quarter of a billion streams on Spotify and counting). The Lizzo template is the same as it’s always been: a chassis of classic funk/disco, sometimes more hip hop, sometimes more pop, all shot through with the messages that Lizzo is a big, strong, proud woman who can overcome anything, that you deserve to be strong, proud and happy too, that no man is worth crying over, and that we should all get this party started right now.

All of which is great in and of itself: it’s what she does and she does it well. Her voice is still great, whether singing or rapping, she’s funny and convincing in her delivery, and it’s great to hear her normalising rowdy, bawdy odes to female friendship. Most of the tracks here are good and quite a few are great. “ADT” deserves all its success for sure and will be as much of an enduring party classic as "Good as Hell", the trap-inspired “Grrrls” and Outkast-ish “The Sign” are big fun too, and the closer “Coldplay” is a reminder that Lizzo could go all-out neo soul any time she wanted, and do it well.

It just gets a bit much en masse. Track after track after track of the same positive thinking messages just start to feel a bit inspirational Facebook post, or – worse – a bit Katy Perry. When Lizzo works a line from Lauryn Hill into “Break up Twice”, the comparison with the depth of Hill’s lyricism doesn’t work in Lizzo’s favour. She is still a world class entertainer, still writing some great songs, and still generally A Good Thing. She IS Special. But this album suggests that this long ploughing a very particular furrow carries with it the risk of becoming one-dimensional. Lizzo’s initial appeal partly came from playing to her strengths, but it also came from not doing what was expected or demanded of her – and she could do with a little more of that now.

@joemuggs

Listen to "About Damn Time":

The closer “Coldplay” is a reminder that Lizzo could go all-out neo soul any time she wanted, and do it well

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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