Lizzo’s Grammy nominations mean more than just superficial fame, they reflect societal change

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Rapper and singer-songwriter Lizzo taking the world by storm this past year was no accident. Longtime fans and those who have just begun to dive into her music can clearly see the progression of her style, from pure hip-hop jams to beautifully sung pop songs. She definitely didn’t appear out of nowhere — Lizzo made a name for herself back in 2013 with the release of Lizzobangers. Her efforts thus far have led her to become the most nominated artist at the 2020 Grammy Awards, and rightfully so.

Lizzo is nominated for eight Grammy Awards categories, including album of the year, song of the year, record of the year and best new artist. For a new artist to be nominated in all of the “big four” categories, they have to prove they are a powerhouse of musical finesse and production, while also garnering love from the public. It’s almost as if the fruits of Lizzo’s work from when she started making music have suddenly been harvested this year, skyrocketing her into the waiting arms of public attention. With the immense success of her 2017 song “Truth Hurts” in 2019, Lizzo went from being loved and appreciated by locals to being heralded as one of the top pop artists ever.

Lizzo may have appeared on everyone’s radar once “Truth Hurts” topped the Billboard Hot 100, but the song on its own is only a small cog in the works of Lizzo’s discography. It’s a feel-good song with enough hip-hop elements from her previous work to make it stand out from typical pop songs. Fans of Lizzo who knew the song when it originally debuted may have expressed confusion as to why Lizzo is only now receiving the fame she should have been basking in two years ago.

While calling her a breakthrough artist may be true to some extent, Lizzo has had her roots in the music industry since 2011. She worked on various music projects during her time living in Minneapolis, and she released two full-length albums (Lizzobangers and Big Grrrl Small World) as well as an EP (Coconut Oil) before coming out with Cuz I Love You. Lizzobangers is an album with nothing but actual bangers, an intense, experimental hip-hop album showcasing her rap skills and her ability to create strange yet beautiful music. Big Grrrl Small World follows Lizzo in refining her sound and settling down into a mix of hip-hop, rap and unapologetic lyricism. 

Lizzo’s 2015 release of “My Skin” was a major milestone in her opening herself up to the world as her listeners’ sherpa into self-acceptance. She braved facing ridicule and presented her raw self, something she’s continued to do as she put out more music and appealed to more listeners. She proved that a plus-size Black female musician can exist and be successful. She proved that people would listen to her.

But it’s important to acknowledge that her slow and steady rise to her position in popular music culture is what’s best for cementing her place among music giants. She was able to build up a loyal fanbase and dabble in different branches of pop music, composing songs with catchy power pop hooks and groovy beats — such as in “Juice” — without selling out or compromising herself and her identity. While her music has taken on a primarily pop pattern, she often pays homage to the raunchiness of Lizzobangers and Big Grrrl Small World through her lyrics. With the re-release of “Truth Hurts” as a radio single, Lizzo had already crafted a signature sound with her big hits “Juice” and “Good as Hell.” “Truth Hurts” simply originally came out at a time when the mainstream world wasn’t ready for Lizzo.

Why are Lizzo’s eight nominations important at this specific point in time? Because the face of pop music is changing, and Lizzo is at the forefront. Her role as a thriving, Black, body-positive musician is held by no one else. Her “love yourself” preachings go beyond music and simply feeling “good as hell.” Fans live not only through Lizzo’s music but also through the confidence she exudes both on-stage and off. Her large number of nominations signifies to Lizzo that she’s doing something right. These nominations tell people to really look at Lizzo, to revel in her unabashed presentation of herself to the world. Hopefully, the 2020 Grammys give Lizzo the awards she has worked so hard for, recognizing her as a quality musician as well as a quality role model.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].