Special

Lizzo

Special

At this point, Lizzo needs no introduction. The endlessly witty, playfully braggadocious and proudly plus-size powerhouse has been pocketing Grammys and flying private for a minute now, and in many ways, her celebratory fourth album Special is a snapshot from her view at the top. “I felt a lot of pressure to follow up Cuz I Love You with more bangers,” she tells Apple Music. “Or to capture this post-‘Truth Hurts’-single-girl-era Lizzo. But concepts have never really been my bag. It feels like I’m lying. Instead, I just wrote honestly about where I’ve been for the last few years, and who I’ve become.” Given these tumultuous times, the tone of the album shifted a bit. In its early phases, Special was a political project of angry, protest-oriented rock songs—a way to “address the injustices I see in the world”, she says. But her songwriting led her into brighter, more positive territory. “I started writing from a place of gratitude rather than fear, and that’s always where I wanted to be,” she says. “Whether I have everything in the world or it’s all taken away from me, I always want my base level to be gratitude. These songs are a celebration of who I am right now.” Laced with campy one-liners (“It’s bad bitch o’clock/Yeah, it’s thick thirty”), hard-to-get clearances (Beastie Boys, Coldplay, Lauryn Hill) and chunky disco-funk beats designed to make you move, these spirited, charismatic anthems are her most adventurous yet. They also detail Lizzo’s keys to happiness: counting your blessings and loving yourself first. “The Sign” “This was originally track two. The first track I had was a sad song about love and loss, because I wanted to catch people by surprise. Like a traditional Lizzo album starts with a big fanfare, it's very in-your-face. As this album evolved and I made peace with not putting a lot of those darker notes on here, it became clear to me that the right way to start this was by being my honest self. That meant: ‘Hi, motherfucker!’ That in-your-face fanfare. I think it works great as a tone-setter, too, because honestly, where else would this song go? It can't go at the end. It can't be in the middle. It's definitely not track three. It’s a kick-off. It’s saying, ‘We're about to have fun. This is about to be a musical journey.’” “About Damn Time” “I have been making feel-good music for a long fucking time now—as early as ‘Good as Hell’ for people who've known about me. So when I made a song like ‘Juice’ that had this funky disco feel to it, I didn't really realise what I was doing. I was just letting the song happen. It was the complete opposite with ‘About Damn Time’. For this record, I was like, ‘We are making a disco record.’ I wanted a song that would be emblematic and reflective of the times. And I associate disco with resilience; it helped so many people stomp out of a dark era in this country. So I hoped that a contemporary disco song would have a similar effect. Now, I don't know what we're walking into. Things have gotten crazy. But I do know that we're always moving. I wanted this song to be a marching song [that would help] us move forward.” “Grrrls” “benny blanco and I had never worked together before this album. We’d eaten together, but we'd never worked together. Then one day I heard he wanted to get in the studio and I was like, ‘Oh shit, okay, let's make it happen.’ He came with one track and it was this. So I sat with it for a while. Eventually I was like, ‘Listen, this is either going to be the greatest song ever or the biggest waste of our time.’ Because Beastie Boys were one of the greatest copyrights of all time. No one, and I mean no one, has done this. Until now. Dude, Beastie Boys cleared ‘Girls’ for yours truly. It’s an honour.” “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)” “This is the first record I made with Max Martin, and it’s a dream record. As someone who's been writing songs since I was 9, who studied music since I was 12, and who dreamed of being a performer, Max Martin is the dream collaborator. Recording it was like watching a legend in action. He’s an extremely collaborative, open, creative soul. The song is a callback to when pop records had key changes—that golden era of late-’80s and early-’90s pop when singers had massive records that were vocally impressive but also danceable, and the production quality was very intentional. I think it's a work of art. It’s a masterpiece.” “I Love You Bitch” “‘I Love You Bitch’ came from a tweet, and it's not the same as ‘Truth Hurts’, so don't come at me for royalties, Twitter. Shortly after ‘Rumors’ with Cardi B dropped, Cardi tweeted that she wanted to hear a love song from me next. And I was like, ‘Okay, if Lizzo did a love song, what would it be? I love you, bitch?’ It was one of those rare times where I had the title before the song. I got in the studio with Omer Fedi and Blake Slatkin and told them about my idea. Omer started playing the guitar, and I started freestyling to it. I'm from Houston, and there's this Houston rapper named Z-Ro who has a song called ‘I Hate U Bitch’. Suddenly I was like, hold up, what if I sang the ‘I Hate U Bitch’ melody but said ‘I Love You Bitch’ instead? It just came out, and it might be the greatest thing we’ve ever done. As I was writing the lyrics, I realised that I wanted to write a universal love song—one you could sing to the person you're fucking and your best friend, to your family or to someone you just met at a bar.” “Special” “After ‘Rumors’, I received a lot of backlash. I think it was because people hadn't heard from me since Cuz I Love You and this was their opportunity to attack me because I was visible, you know? But I turn my pain into music. I turn my pain into profit. I make it work for me. So I went into the studio to write a song for myself that would remind me how special I am. In the second verse, I say, ‘Could you imagine a world where everybody's the same? And you could cancel a girl ’cause she just wanted to change? How could you throw fucking stones if you ain't been through her pain? That's why we feel so alone, that's why we feel so much shame.’ I was trying to flip the mirror on people, that same mirror that I check myself with. It’s me saying, ‘You attack people like they're the monster, but you've become the monster.’ No one's giving anyone the space to be themselves, to show their specialness and to grow.” “Break Up Twice” “This is my second dream collab: Mark Ronson. And let me tell you, this is quintessential Mark. His style and swag is inescapable. Working with him made me feel like a kid again, because you just jam. And I used to be in a rock band, so that’s my bread and butter. When I first heard the guitar part, I was like, ‘This is classic shit right here.’ And when I heard those Lauryn Hill ‘Doo Wop’ chords, I was like, ‘Do we run from this or lean into it?’ You’ve got to lean into it. She cleared it in a day and I was beside myself. The story behind it is like, I’d had a barbecue and one of my friends threatened the guy I invited. She was like, ‘If you fuck with her, I'm gonna slash your tires.’ I was like, ‘Hell yeah.’ I took it into the studio and Mark thought it was brilliant. The idea is: I don't break up twice. We're only going to do this once, and we're going to do it right.” “Everybody's Gay” “I wanted to write a fantasy song, like one of those Hollywood songs where you're taken away to a picture that I'm painting, a dream sequence kind of thing. It's very cinematic. I wanted to write about this wild costume party where everybody gets together and has a good time. And no, when I sing ‘Take your mask off,’ I didn't mean your N95. I meant like the mask of the person that you have to uphold when you're out in the world, the mask that protects your true self. Take that off, because we accept you for who you are in this space. This high-key is the centrepiece of the album, musically, for me. It's a cornucopia of sound.” “Naked” “Goddammit, where do I even start? Pop Wansel made this beautiful track, and I was like, ‘If I don't use this track, I'm going to think about this for the rest of my life. If I don't use this beat, I'm going to think about this beat for the rest of my life.’ Initially, I wanted to write a song about how comfortable I've become with myself, but then I evolved as a person. And as I’ve evolved, ‘Naked’ has undergone a lot of rewriting. It has evolved with me. So now it’s like, ‘How accepting are you of me?’ It’s very intimate. I saw Solange perform a couple years ago now at the Lovebox Festival in London, and I was in awe of her set because she had so much nuance. Meanwhile, I'm all bravado. I'm in-your-face, loud-loud-loud, full-throttle. I was like, ‘Man, on my next album, I want nuance.’ Because there's nothing like the control that she has, the power she has in the quiet. So on ‘Naked’, I'm in a half-falsetto for most of the song. I’m ad-libbing here and there. I’m having a little chat. It’s under your breath. Also, I had a sinus infection when I sang this, and frankly I give the best vocals with a sinus infection.” “Birthday Girl” “I did this with [production duo] Monsters & Strangerz, and it all came from a freestyle. I was like, ‘Is it your birthday, girl? ’Cause you lookin' like a present.’ I literally think I freestyled that. And they were like, ‘Whoa.’ Mind you, the song wasn't about birthdays. I thought it was going to be like the first line of the first verse but then I’d go on to talk about how fine my friends are and whatever. And they were like, ‘No, no, this is the song.’ I felt tied to the song’s initial concept, which was to celebrate my friends and how much I love and appreciate them, but then I realised that birthdays symbolise that. Birthdays are a big deal for me. Every friend that I have, I try to make their birthday the biggest blowout every year. Helicopters, Omarion. Lizards. Three-tiered cakes. Like I say in the song, ‘When you've been through the most/You got to do the most.’ That's an Instagram caption for life.” “If You Love Me” “This was the first song I wrote for the album, and it was something I needed to get off my chest. It’s about all of the times I go onstage and talk to the crowd and am like, ‘You guys show me so much love, so much support, and I want to thank you for supporting a woman who looks like me—a big Black woman from Houston, Texas. If you could show this same energy to people who look like me but who aren’t Lizzo, who aren’t dancing onstage and entertaining you... If you could show it to a woman on the street, show her some love and respect...’ Because historically, that hasn't been the case. It’s asking: How do we take the time to be kind to ourselves and kind to the person next to us, no matter what they look like or where they come from? How can we take this respect that we give to entertainers and apply it to people in the real world? This is a record that fans who've been following me for a long time will get it as soon as they hear it.” “Coldplay” “This song was literally created from a 45-minute freestyle to a piano loop. Ricky Reed had me sit in the booth and just talk, so I started romanticising about this trip I’d just taken to Tulum, about the experiences I’d had and how I was singing Coldplay and crying. A few weeks later, he was like, ‘Hey, you remember that freestyle you said in the booth? I wrote a song using your words.’ He played me a track that sampled Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ and I was like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy.’ Ricky was like, ‘We should call this “My Love Is You”.’ And I was like, ‘Nah, we should call it “Coldplay”.’ Because I'm going to tell you: Black people call people the name of their band. We call Adam Levine ‘Maroon 5’. ‘Oh, there goes Maroon 5.’ I thought there was something funny and real about calling a song that samples Coldplay ‘Coldplay’. Their songwriting is so simple and poetic. So I was like, ‘Let's honour them. Let's not run from it.’ On this album, I didn't run from anything. If there’s a thesis to this album, it’s that. Embracing myself.”

Disc 1

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12

Disc 2

1

Other Versions

Audio Extras

  • Nov. 24: Lizzo
  • Lizzo