Hip-hop dynamo Lizzo has gained large following in the past year. She made her mark on Iowa City when she performed on the Pentacrest last fall for the 2018 homecoming concert. Originally from Detroit, the artist—whose full name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson—released her third album Cuz I Love You in April. The eleven song collection expands on her body-positive message in her unique R&B style.
The title track, “Cuz I Love You,” opens up the album, an unapologetic piece about longing for a loved one with a bass-filled chorus. Lizzo shows off her charismatic vocal skills from beginning to end with belting, rapping, and sustained high notes. “Like a Girl” takes spot two, an empowering track turning the old phrase of doing something “like a girl” on its head. While this piece has lyrical power, it falls more into the typical hip-hop style, not pushing the genre very far in the way Lizzo is known to do.
The third song on the album is the hit “Juice,” released earlier this year. Its eighties-esque beat is infectious with joy, making any listener crack a smile. Percussion plays a heavy role in the song, which doesn’t have any bass, an atypical finding in modern hip-hop. Instead, the foundation of “Juice” is filled with varied drums, stacked synthesizer chords, brass, and even a güiro—the wooden ridged instrument played by running a stick along the side.
What really gives “Juice” its power, like many of Lizzo’s songs, is vivacious lyrics. An anthem of empowerment, Lizzo speaks of how she doesn’t care what others may think of her because she’s happy and confident in herself. The song uses comparisons “I’m like chardonnay get better over time / Heard you say I’m not the baddest, bitch you lie” to build up power behind her words, reinforcing this mantra of self-confidence.
The album transitions to a slower tempo with “Jerome.” Here Lizzo is more vulnerable, singing directly to a lover she is amidst a fight with, Jerome. The lyrics are still grounded in self-love, but admit that everyone has faults: “I never said I was perfect / or you don’t deserve a good person to carry your baggage.” Lizzo is undeniably herself in her music and in real life, but “Jerome” lets her fans see a more nuanced side.
Two collaborative songs are included on the album, “Tempo,” featuring Missy Elliott, and “Exactly How I Feel,” featuring Gucci Mane. “Tempo” is a rap track with an underlying trap beat. Elliott comes in on the last verse, where some of Lizzo’s infamous flute playing is also sampled. In a very different style, “Exactly How I Feel” is vaguely reminiscent of James Brown with shout-like vocals and soulful instrumentals. This callback to older soul music is spun in a more modern direction with Gucci Mane’s rap verse and a mix of electronic beats in the song.
“Better In Color” stirs together hip hop and electronic rock with the secret ingredient of Lizzo’s boss bitch aura. This piece is nonstop excitement and has some auditory gems, one being toward the end of the song where layered three-part vocals repeat “color me” while going up along a beautiful chromatic scale.
The last two songs of the album bring it to a jubilant close. “Heaven Help Me” has a gospel influence and ends with an intimate flute solo. “Lingerie” is, fittingly, the most stripped down song of the album, a slow swanky beat fueling Lizzo’s lusty call.
Cuz I Love You is a showcase of Lizzo’s spirit. She is an artist unafraid to experiment and is proud of her message of self-love, body-positivity, and female empowerment, all of which shine through in each and every song.