When constructing an empowering playlist, whether it be for a friend going through a breakup or to pump you up for a new job interview, there must always be a climax — a song that brings the listener to their most hyped point. In the 1970s, this song was “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, and in the 1980s, it was “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston. But in 2019, almost every song on Lizzo’s new album Cuz I Love You has the potential to occupy this absolutely essential spot in a playlist.
The first single off the album, “Juice” — which came out early this year — sets the tone for the entire album. It’s a song that is at once exuberant and nostalgic and is rich with 1980s influence, a growing trend in Lizzo’s particular brand of indie hip-hop.
The track “Soulmate” will feel the most familiar to Lizzo superfans with its upbeat tempo and unapologetically confident lyrics about the importance of loving yourself. Other tracks such as “Like a Girl” and “Exactly How I Feel,” which features Gucci Mane, keep the party going, shining a light on Lizzo’s rapping skills that are rivaled only by her phenomenal singing voice.
Far from a one-trick pony, however, Lizzo also pulls through with softer songs such as “Lingerie” and “Jerome,” which help to round out the album with softer and more sensual depictions of love and longing for another.
While Lizzo hasn’t released an album or EP in three years, she’s blessed us in the interim with singles such as “Fitness,” “Boys” and “Truth Hurts,” which kept the people fed until her newest album had time to be fully realized. These tracks, while not included on any official album, have heralded Lizzo’s transition from the more rap-heavy tracks of her first album, Lizzobangers, to the more melodic styling of Cuz I Love You.
On her junior album, Lizzo is clearly still coming into her own as an artist, borrowing heavily from predecessors such as Janelle Monáe, Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott. The influence of these legendary performers can be seen all over tracks such as “Soulmate” and “Tempo,” the latter of which actually features Missy Elliott.
Lizzo has sat just on the cusp of mainstream success since her hit “Good as Hell” in 2016, and this new album serves as her official induction. The album is just as effervescent and unapologetic as the artist who created it, and this is Lizzo’s brand. As Lizzo edges her way into the mainstream, with it she ushers in a new era of body-positive anthems on self-love.
In performances from “Ellen” to Coachella, Lizzo dances to her tracks in front of dancers who are as diverse as they are talented. There is something surreal and dazzling about seeing bodies that look like yours, like your sister’s, like your best friend’s, dancing beside a bona fide superstar on the rise. There is something even more surreal about realizing you’ve never seen it before. This is what Lizzo has done — taken a brand based on self-love and backed it up with music good enough to propel that vision into the mainstream.
As one Twitter user tactfully put it upon the release of the album: “If you’re not obsessed with Lizzo, you’re not paying attention.”
Cuz I Love You cements Lizzo as a powerful piece of the popular music landscape — a space that, as with most spaces, she remains absolutely unafraid of taking up.