The singer’s sophomore album is an ambitious one, in which she (purposefully and fearlessly) evokes the late Aretha Franklin’s vocal style, reaching for the highs and lows, the seriousness mixed with self-knowing humor, the growls and vibrato. She drops a lot more f-bombs than Aretha would, but she does so while doing something the Queen of Soul would absolutely approve of: tackling sexism, racism, and fat-phobia with her lyrics. Lizzo aims to reclaim a lot of phrases and words that are used to hurt us; on “Like A Girl” she takes that old “you throw like a girl” cliche and flips it from the opening bars, when she sings, “Woke up feelin' like I just might run for President / Even if there ain't no precedent, switchin' up the messaging / I'm about to add a little estrogen.” She declares herself the baddest bitch on “Juice,” and knocks the “ideal body type” myth on “Tempo,” a collaboration with Missy Elliott on, by singing, “Slow songs, they for skinny hoes / Can't move all of this here to one of those / I'm a thick bitch, I need tempo.” She completely reimagines that old nugget of a song “Big Girls Don’t Cry” with “Cry Baby,” a song that revels in being emotional after a breakup and sends a well-deserved fuck you at the notion that women should be quieter and smaller. With “Better in Color,” Lizzo demolishes the hierarchy of skin colors, insisting that “Black, white, ebony all sound good to me / Two-tone recipe, got good chemistry.”
Lizzo tries out an Otis Redding vibe with the album’s title track, “Cuz I Love You” and “Jerome.” But, as is the case throughout, her winking sense of humor, like telling Jerome “take your ass home / come back when you’re grown” adds levity to an, emotional love song — not unlike Redding himself on “Tramp.”
The subject of nearly every song is love, from romantic- to self-love. The heart of her message lies in “Soulmate,” which is perhaps a bit too serious to be the follow-up to her first hit single, “Good as Hell.” But the message remains the same: wanna be in love and give yourself to someone else? Gotta learn to love yourself first. Lizzo has mastered the art of self-love and that’s how she can bring us bangers like “Exactly How I Feel” and sexy, slow jams like “Lingerie.” The best way to bring the party and free your spirit? Take a page out of Lizzo’s book and start with yourself.