“Woke up feeling like I might just run for President” runs the opening line on Like A Girl, one of the many standout tracks from Lizzo‘s third album. Apart from the obvious response that the world will take pretty much any alternative to the current incumbent, listening to Cuz I Love You is a reminder that a world run by a President Lizzo would be a damn fun one.
Lizzo, aka Melissa Jefferson, has been threatening to break into the mainstream for a while now, but 2019 is certainly her year. Last year’s Boys (only included on the deluxe version of this record) gave a taster of what to expect, but the album is full of glorious party anthems, a half-hour funk/soul paean to self-love and self-esteem.
Pretty much every track feels like a statement of intent – the title track, which opens the album, gives a demonstration of Lizzo’s vocal prowess. Her much stated ambition to be “the Aretha Franklin for a new generation” may seem ridiculous self-aggrandizing, but it’s only when you hear that opening line of “I’m crying… cuz I love you” that the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
Elsewhere, Juice seems destined to be a party staple for many years to come, a song that will easily sit next to Uptown Funk and Get Lucky but feels like it’ll outlive them both. Lyrically, it’s almost a pep-talk to feeling good about yourself (“Mirror mirror on the wall, don’t tell me ‘cos I know I’m cute” runs the opening line), the sort of song you can imagine a new generation singing into their hairbrushes.
Although the overall mood of Cuz I Love You is that of joy, occasionally some pain slips between the cracks. Jerome is a doo-wop inspired kiss-off to an ex-lover (“Take your ass home, and come back when you’re grown”), and Cry Baby is Lizzo’s answer song to Frankie Valli‘s Big Girls Don’t Cry, embracing her pain after a break up instead of bottling it up.
Generally though, Cuz I Love You is an album to party to. Nowhere is this more evident than the collaboration with Missy Elliott, Tempo which sees Lizzo move away from the funk tone of the album back towards her rap roots. It’s an electrifying track, enlivened by a typically raucous contribution from Elliott. Doubled up with Exactly How I Feel, another dancefloor anthem recorded with Gucci Mane, it’s the most exhilarating part of the album.
If there’s a pivotal track, it’s probably Soulmate, where Lizzo advises against waiting for ‘the one’ and just be comfortable in your own skin instead: “She never tells me to exercise, we always get extra fries, and you the sex is fire… I’ma marry me one day.” This may seem hokey in anyone else’s hands, but it’s done with such positivity and flair that you can’t help but fall in love with it. Early fans may mourn the lack of edge that this major label debut may have smoothed out, but everyone else best get their “Lizzo 2020” signs on the lawn.