“Hi motherf*cker, did you miss me?” asks Lizzo on “The Sign,” the opening track of her second major label album, Special. While the obvious answer may be ”yes,” it feels like her latest offering arrived right when we needed it. Throughout the album, Lizzo spares us any spiels about the pandemic, with the exception of the line “I’ve been home since 2020” on the aforementioned song. However, she knows we’re ready to get back out and dance.
When her major label debut,Cuz I Luv You dropped in 2019, a once indie favorite Lizzo brought herself into the pop landscape with a confidence anthem called “Juice.” The song garnered much popularity that year, especially after it was featured in the series finale of Broad City. The song’s buzz opened the doors for other uplifting songs of hers to rise to the top of the charts, including “Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell,” which had respectively been released two and three years prior.
Special follows the Lizzo signature formula; providing uplifting anthems by way of soulful vocals, catchy raps, and live instrumentation. The album features Lizzo sticking to what she does best, while taking her musical craft a step further. As a collection of individual tracks, or as a cohesive body of work from start-to-finish, Lizzo has delivered another timeless classic.
By now, most people have heard the disco-inspired “About Damn Time,” whether it be on the radio, through viral TikTok dance videos, or by streaming it of your own volition. The nostalgia factor takes us back to a simpler time, however, Lizzo’s vocal and rap stylings make way for her to create something that is uniquely her own.
Nostalgia is a key theme on Special, as a fair portion of the songs contain spins on other iconic songs. A few of these songs are the feisty, fight-provoking “Grrrls,” which samples “Girls” by Beastie Boys, “Break Up Twice,” which interpolates “Doo Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill, and “Coldplay,” which samples “Yellow” by the song’s namesake band. Sampling songs of that caliber is a big risk, especially during a time when pop and hip-hop artists are heavily relying on samples (see: “First Class” by Jack Harlow). But even as she cashes in on the vintage components, it is evident why artists like Prince expressed interest in working with her, as her ability to take old sounds and reinvent them with a modern twist.
While these samples and interpolations may evoke a smile on the listener’s face as they immediately recognize the source, Lizzo’s best work on Special comes in the form of fresh, new sounds. The interspersed pipe organ paired with the kick drum on “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready) creates an infectious earworm, as a once-guarded Lizzo welcomes new love into her life. Meanwhile, an ode to her best friend called “I Love You B*tch” contains hypnotic, repeating synth notes, as well as quirky bars that make Lizzo’s warm, fun personality shine through. Some standouts include “I wanna text you these fire nudeys / this ass on your screen / I feel so complete,” and “Give me your hoody when I’m cold / Bless your heart, it’s too small.”
The album’s title track alludes to moments where she felt overwhelmed by online comments, saying she’s “used to feeling alone.” Wanting to be a source of comfort to those who have also felt that way, she jumps into a loud chorus, reminding us, “in case nobody told you today, you’re special / I’m so glad that you’re still with us / broken but damn, you’re perfect.” It’s a message we all need to hear in 2022, a time when it feels like the world is caving in on us.
The transcendental “Everybody’s Gay” imagines a festive night out with her rainbow squad, as she encourages her friends to take off their masks (no, not their COVID masks), and express themselves, as they “dance the night away.” Upon Special’s release last week, the song became an immediate fan favorite, as it musically creates a safe space for her queer and trans fans. Plus, the fiery guitar lick further fuels the fabulous fire.
From start to finish, Special feels therapeutic, but that’s nothing new from a Lizzo album. But the time at which the album arrives makes the 12-track record a significant stamp within the zeitgeist of the time. Mentions of the pandemic, as well as current contemporary issues are kept to a minimum, which allows the record to feel timeless, and not dated. Over the course of the three years since Lizzo dropped Cuz I Luv You, the way we consume music has changed, especially with platforms like TikTok. While it’s not likely that these songs will have a big sleeper hit moment, like “Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell” did in 2019, Special is a record is perfect now, and will still be perfect years from now.
Lizzo is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.