A few years ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts. The host mentioned this music artist that I’d never heard of before, and since I still had the student subscription to Apple Music (those were the good ol’ days) I decided to give the artist a listen. The artist was Lizzo, and my life was changed.I downloaded “Truth Hurts” first, and I must say perfect timing. I’d just broken up with this dude and I was all in my feelings and whatnot. But, not after Lizzo I wasn’t.
My love affair with Lizzo continued through her “Coconut Oil” EP, and I dove headfirst into the rabbit hole of YouTube videos. I realized more and more that Lizzo was what I wanted to see in myself. Her obvious homages to gospel music and celebrations of womanhood felt like home to me, and it was sweet. But, that was nothing - nothing at all - compared to what I would experience when my girl/BFF/hood therapist released “Cuz I Love You.” Y’all.
I really wish someone would have told me to not listen on my drive from Chicago to Milwaukee. So many feelings; so many emotions. That hour and a half drive was the perfect length for everything I experienced with Lizzo blaring through my car speakers and reverberating through my heart. “Cuz I Love You” was everything I needed and didn’t know I needed. It was my journal clapping on the 2 and 4. It was my permission to release, to celebrate, and to say - quite frankly - fuck everything else.I am no music producer and I’m sure my opinion really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but I couldn’t just sing - well, scream - every track of “Cuz I Love You” and not tell every other fat, Black girl to do the same thing. What better way than to stan the tracklist from top to bottom?
"Cuz I Love You"
It’s something special about the very first thing you hear being Lizzo’s soulful groan of the line “Im cryin’ cuz I love you” as what sounds like a complete orchestra joining her. It moves you, because love is something that does the same thing. Lizzo immediately attacks the notion that fat black girls don’t feel, and that we don’t have people to love. Her sexual positivity catches up to her new feelings - ones that she was not prepared for - and acknowledges that its hard, becuase shit, it is. Lizzo is vulnerable, loud, emotional and sensual all in the first 3 minutes of the album, and the music accompanies her on this rollercoaster ride.
"Like a Girl"
Then, there’s the anthem. Lizzo shouts out Chaka Khan, Serena Williams, Lauryn Hill and Magic City while celebrating her black womanhood. For so long, the phrase “like a girl” has been meant to be derogatory, and Lizzo responds with a “nah sis” and reminds us all that girls do some pretty dope shit. She tells us to fight, cry and run the whole damn world like only a girl can, and honestly after this song I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.
If you’re lacking a little bit in the confidence area, this one is for you. This entire song is literally Lizzo talking about how amazing she is, and dammit she makes me feel amazing too. Yes, there are songs that boast self confidence, but Lizzo takes it a step further by letting us shine with her. She’s not afraid to love herself loudly and tell David to sit his ass down when he tries to see what that booty do. This song is the epitome of “fuck what you heard.” As a matter of fact, Lizzo says “that’s all you’ve heard? It’s the juice, baby.”
First of all, Geminis ain’t shit. Secondly, when Soulmate came on I thought I was going to have to pull over and cry a real good ugly cry. Lizzo redefines what it means to have a soulmate, and I like her definition better. It took me years to get to the point where I am at peace with spending time with myself, and this song reminded me that I have every right to do so. Soulmate gives me permission to say no, and that’s exactly what I needed.
Now, this song is special to me. This song puts all of the power of a relationship into the woman’s hands and tells that sorry ass nigga to go find him some business until he is grown enough to really be with a woman. This isn’t her begging and pleading - this isn’t Lizzo talking about how lonely she is because Jerome left or how she’s going to stick with his sorry ass even after he did all the wrong things. This song tells Jerome, in the clearest terms possible, that he ain’t got it and she ain’t got time. This fat black woman does not settle, and even though Jerome is fine (he got a beard, y’all) he still ain’t good enough.
Lizzo ain’t nobody’s mammy, and Cry Baby makes that obvious. She pulls from Prince’s signature musicality and takes us on a journey of all the feels. Lizzo ain’t just a happy-go-lucky, yes ma’am kinda girl, Lizzo shows that she is dimensional, moody, and worth it. She doesn’t apologize for her tears and isn’t sad about it. The tears she shed were not out of sadness, but emotion. Us big girls can cry too.
This here is my song. I celebrated my birthday recently, and it was the first one I actually wanted to celebrate in years. Through a mixture of depression, anxiety, body issues, self-doubt and a whole bunch of other stuff I couldn’t find a reason to celebrate myself. Then I decided to allow myself to enjoy myself, fupa and all. So, when I heard Tempo, it gave me all the ammunition I needed to shake my fat ass into 29 - to the Tempo, of course.
"Exactly How I Feel"
Simply put: Lizzo does what she wants, when she wants, and she doesn’t give a fuck. Exactly How I Feel reminds me that I don’t have to explain anything to anybody, and my feelings - whatever they are - are valid. You can’t be invisible with this one, you have to break through that wall because, well, you feel like it. And, if you don't, that's okay too - it’s your choice.
"Better in Color"
Often times we have this idea that fat black women don’t deserve a loud love. If we are to be with someone else, we need to be quiet about it - no posting, no PDA, no joy. Lizzo politely says fuck that notion and goes on the hunt for her next escapade. She ignores that quiet Jerome love and goes for that loud BDE that she - and fat black girls everywhere - deserve.
"Heaven Help Me"
Even though that BDE caught up with her, Lizzo figures out a way to leave him back there with Jerome and move right on to the next one. She doesn’t have time for settling down and refuses to change for any ol’ nigga. She’s her own woman, and men are expendable. When’s the last time a fat black woman was given the space to be a hoe and not be belittled for it? I’ll wait.
The nerve. Lizzo had the nerve to end this album with a ballad - no - an ode to her own sex appeal. You can clearly picture her sensually walking through her home scantily clad in lingerie made for skinny hoes, but it suits her so much better. You can picture her on the couch, glass of wine in hand, patiently waiting for him because she wants to. She takes us over the edge with this unexpected climax and steamy scene that leaves you wanting more of her fat black womanhood - she’s so easy to love. The nerve.
Lastly, I can’t talk about these songs without talking about this cover. Lizzo sits naked, her melanated body glowing on the black background and hair flowing down her back. She is flawed and flawless, pure and raw, exposed and hidden. She willingly gives all of herself, and I’ve never seen anything more beautiful. It is impossible to look at this album cover and not see desire. For me, it wasn’t about sexuality - it was about loving everything about herself, and letting onlookers do the same. It’s about denying the negativity and allowing no space for critique. It's the most beautiful “f*ck you” and my own inspiration.The first time I listened to this album I cried. This album did for me what countless dives into feminist literature only scratched the surface of. Lizzo embodies the beauty, versatility, and passion of Black womanhood, and “Cuz I Love You” takes you on a journey past healing to freedom. She makes the painful simple and gives a new life to the magic that is Black womanhood.
Thank you, Lizzo. I cried because I love you, too.