Lizzo Is A Goddess Of Self-Love And Positivity On The Unapologetic, Ebullient ‘Cuz I Love You’

Nice Life/Atlantic

The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.

Lizzo opens her full-length major label debut Cuz I Love You with an honest-to-god acapella yowl. Iiiiiii’m cryin / Cuz I looooove youuuuu!” she screams, like she’s daring you to turn the volume up and match her enthusiasm. It’d be a bold and slightly off-putting intro coming from any other artist, but Lizzo knows her strength, and her strength is in screaming how she feels.

Singer-songwriter-rapper Melissa Jefferson’s third solo LP, Cuz I Love You, is an exercise in joy. It’s impossible to listen to this album without letting a smile bloom on your face. It makes me want to be a better person. It makes me look in the mirror with a gentler eye, seeing the qualities that might be devalued by Eurocentric, misogynistic, ableist society as a source of stunning beauty. It makes me want to hug my friends and dance and scream how much I love them at the top of my lungs. It might make you want to do those things, too.

There are two types of people — Lizzo fans and people who haven’t heard her yet. With the dizzying success of her pre-released Cuz I Love You singles, thankfully, there aren’t many in that second camp anymore. She’s on top of the world, performing flute solos on Ellen, talking body positivity with Jameela Jamil, all over the radio, and blowing up Twitter. To listen to her once is to fall in love with her. Months before Cuz I Love You was even released, Jefferson sold out a tour playing the biggest venues of her career so far. Her popularity is compounding so fast it’s hard to keep up. Mid-size venues aren’t big enough to hold her ambition or powerhouse voice. Even arenas seem too quotidian — she belongs in the sky, hands clapping like thunder and positive affirmations cracking the sky like lightning.

Cuz I Love You is an immediate classic. Rather than follow current trends in pop and R&B, Lizzo reaches back to retro ’80s pop, ’60s doo-wop, and ’70s soul for inspiration. Her unapologetic penchant for throwback jams has drawn comparisons to labelmate Bruno Mars, but Lizzo amps up the playful elements of her vintage pastiche, making her music fresh and all her own even as it’s indebted to the classics.

Through the album’s diverse sonic influences, Jefferson’s powerhouse voice is the light that brings every song home. She can go low and sultry (“Tempo“) and climb pop queen high (“Heaven Help Me”), and her belting would make any Broadway legend shake. Peacock confident, Lizzo uses every song on the album to demonstrate the versatility and power of her vocals. She chews every word of the swaggering “Crybaby,” drawing out the word “family” to at least five syllables.

Apart from that voice, Jefferson is also a master lyricist trading in unexpected, delightful turns. Her wordplay is clever and creative, and each repeated listen of one of her songs yields new jokes and turns of phrase you might have missed the first few times listening. I must have played “Juice” about a hundred times since it came out in January, but it took me until this week to notice the David Copperfield wordplay in the second verse (“David, you ain’t bein slick / Don’t dare you try and cop a feel”).