With powerhouse pipes, razor-sharp wit, and a tireless commitment to self-love and self-care, Lizzo is the fearless pop star we needed. Born Melissa Jefferson in Detroit, the singer and classically trained flautist discovered an early gift for music (“It chose me,” she tells Apple Music) and began recording in Minneapolis shortly after high school. But her trademark self-confidence came less naturally. “I had to look deep down inside myself to a really dark place to discover it,” she says. Perhaps that’s why her third album, Cuz I Love You, sounds so triumphant, with explosive horns (“Cuz I Love You”), club drums (“Tempo” featuring Missy Elliott), and swaggering diva attitude (“No, I'm not a snack at all/Look, baby, I’m the whole damn meal,” she howls on the instant hit “Juice"). But her brand is about more than mic-drop zingers and big-budget features. On songs like “Better in Color”—a stomping, woke plea for people of all stripes to get together—she offers an important message: It’s not enough to love ourselves, we also have to love each other. Read on for Lizzo’s thoughts on each of these blockbuster songs.
“Cuz I Love You”
"I start every project I do with a big, brassy orchestral moment. And I do mean moment. It’s my way of saying, ‘Stand the fuck up, y’all, Lizzo’s here!’ This is just one of those songs that gets you amped from the jump. The moment you hear it, you’re like, ‘Okay, it’s on.’ It’s a great fucking way to start an album."
“Like a Girl”
"We wanted take the old cliché and flip it on its head, shaking out all the negative connotations and replacing them with something empowering. Serena Williams plays like a girl and she’s the greatest athlete on the planet, you know? And what if crying was empowering instead of something that makes you weak? When we got to the bridge, I realized there was an important piece missing: What if you identify as female but aren't gender-assigned that at birth? Or what if you're male but in touch with your feminine side? What about my gay boys? What about my drag queens? So I decided to say, ‘If you feel like a girl/Then you real like a girl,' and that's my favorite lyric on the whole album."
"If you only listen to one song from Cuz I Love You, let it be this. It’s a banger, obviously, but it’s also a state of mind. At the end of the day, I want my music to make people feel good, I want it to help people love themselves. This song is about looking in the mirror, loving what you see, and letting everyone know. It was the second to last song that I wrote for the album, right before ‘Soulmate,' but to me, this is everything I’m about. I wrote it with Ricky Reed, and he is a genius.”
"I have a relationship with loneliness that is not very healthy, so I’ve been going to therapy to work on it. And I don’t mean loneliness in the 'Oh, I don't got a man' type of loneliness, I mean it more on the depressive side, like an actual manic emotion that I struggle with. One day, I was like, 'I need a song to remind me that I'm not lonely and to describe the type of person I want to be.' I also wanted a New Orleans bounce song, 'cause you know I grew up listening to DJ Jubilee and twerking in the club. The fact that l got to combine both is wild.”
"This was my first song with the X Ambassadors, and [lead singer] Sam Harris is something else. It was one of those days where you walk into the studio with no expectations and leave glowing because you did the damn thing. The thing that I love about this song is that it’s modern. It’s about fuccboi love. There aren’t enough songs about that. There are so many songs about fairytale love and unrequited love, but there aren’t a lot of songs about fuccboi love. About when you’re in a situationship. That story needed to be told.”
“This is one of the most musical moments on a very musical album, and it’s got that Minneapolis sound. Plus, it’s almost a power ballad, which I love. The lyrics are a direct anecdote from my life: I was sitting in a car with a guy—in a little red Corvette from the ’80s, and no, it wasn't Prince—and I was crying. But it wasn’t because I was sad, it was because I loved him. It was a different field of emotion. The song starts with 'Pull this car over, boy/Don't pretend like you don't know,’ and that really happened. He pulled the car over and I sat there and cried and told him everything I felt.”
“‘Tempo' almost didn't make the album, because for so long, I didn’t think it fit. The album has so much guitar and big, brassy instrumentation, but ‘Tempo’ was a club record. I kept it off. When the project was finished and we had a listening session with the label, I played the album straight through. Then, at the end, I asked my team if there were any honorable mentions they thought I should play—and mind you, I had my girls there, we were drinking and dancing—and they said, ‘Tempo! Just play it. Just see how people react.’ So I did. No joke, everybody in the room looked at me like, ‘Are you crazy? If you don't put this song on the album, you're insane.’ Then we got Missy and the rest is history.”
“Exactly How I Feel”
“Way back when I first started writing the song, I had a line that goes, ‘All my feelings is Gucci.’ I just thought it was funny. Months and months later, I played it at Atlantic [Records], and when that part came up, I joked, ‘Thanks for the Gucci feature, guys!' And this executive says, ‘We can get Gucci if you want.' And I was like, ‘Well, why the fuck not?' I love Gucci Mane. In my book, he's unproblematic, he does a good job, he adds swag to it. It doesn’t go much deeper than that, to be honest. The rest of the song has plenty of meaning: It’s an ode to being proud of your emotions, not feeling like you have to hide them or fake them, all that. But the Gucci feature was just fun.”
“Better in Color”
“This is the nerdiest song I have ever written, for real. But I love it so much. I wanted to talk about love, attraction, and sex without talking about the boxes we put those things in—who we feel like we’re allowed to be in love with, you know? It shouldn’t be about that. It shouldn’t be about gender or sexual orientation or skin color or economic background, because who the fuck cares? Spice it up, man. Love is better in color. I don’t want to see love in black and white."
“Heaven Help Me”
"When I made the album, I thought: If Aretha made a rap album, what would that sound like? ‘Heaven Help Me’ is the most Aretha to me. That piano? She would've smashed that. The song is about a person who’s confident and does a good job of self-care—a.k.a. me—but who has a moment of being pissed the fuck off and goes back to their defensive ways. It’s a journey through the full spectrum of my romantic emotions. It starts out like, 'I'm too cute for you, boo, get the fuck away from me,’ to 'What's wrong with me? Why do I drive boys away?’ And then, finally, vulnerability, like, 'I'm crying and I've been thinking about you.’ I always say, if anyone wants to date me, they just gotta listen to this song to know what they’re getting into."
“I’ve never really written sexy songs before, so this was new for me. The lyrics literally made me blush. I had to just let go and let God. It’s about one of my fantasies, and it has three different chord changes, so let me tell you, it was not easy to sing. It was very ‘Love On Top’ by Beyoncé of me. Plus, you don’t expect the album to end on this note. It leaves you wanting more.”