“Let yourself go” has a negative connotation to it—doing as such would imply something like cancelling all physical activity, restricting your wardrobe to sweatpants and purchasing all your meals from a drive-thru, hair long and unkempt and fingers coated in Cheeto dust.
But what if “letting oneself go” looked like something else? What if it meant letting go of self-hate, bad energy and your host of inner demons? What if it included forgetting about the odds against you and just loving yourself with an uninhibited pride?
Cuz I Love You looks like that. It’s a parade of Lizzo’s most prideful tendencies and a dazzling way to experience the triple-threat talent (rapper, singer, flautist) who’s currently guiding us in a much-needed confidence craze. When the album finally dropped last week, following years of rotating singles and EPs since 2014’s Lizzobangers, it flew in at number one on the iTunes charts, landing just above Beyoncé’s surprise HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM, a feat in and of itself.
On Cuz I Love You, Lizzo’s fortified voice could collapse buildings, her lyrics could bring you to your knees and her unprecedented assurance could inspire you to love yourself just a little bit more. It’s Lizzo’s energy solidified—everything you love about her, wrapped up in one twerkable package bursting with bold statements, bad bitches and, perhaps most notably, bops.
Lizzo preaches self-worth by declaring self-worth. She opens “Like A Girl” with the words, “Woke up feelin’ like I just might run for President / Even if there ain’t no precedent, switchin’ up the messaging / I’m about to add a little estrogen” before later name-dropping some of her girl heroes, like Chaka Kahn, Lauryn Hill and Serena Williams (“Willy”). On “Soulmate,” which isn’t about what you’d first assume, Lizzo looks in the mirror and proclaims, “Damn, she the one.” And on “Exactly How I Feel,” she trades verses with Atlantic labelmate Gucci Mane and wakes up on the wrong side of the bed before realizing, “Ain’t I So Amazing?” and declaring, “Ooh, I ain’t changing / And I don’t give a fuck.” Take that, Monday.
She later teams up with Missy Elliott for the glorious “Tempo” and shouts to the world, “I’m a thick bitch / I need tempo,” promptly breathing new life into the word “sexy.” From beloved single “Good As Hell” to last summer’s steamiest jam “Boys,” Lizzo has long been an advocate for her own sexuality and bodies of all shapes and sizes, flaunting positivity and shaking loose joy every chance she gets, from her live show sermons to her flute solos. Cuz I Love You is just another script for her abundant optimism.
The most unexpected collaboration on the record is its penultimate tune, “Heaven Help Me,” a bonanza of trap, gospel singers and flute produced by the X Ambassadors, a band usually reserved for the unimportant middle ground of the adult alternative charts and pop radio. But this track, smartly arranged and powerfully sung by Lizzo, makes them seem cool, somehow. Lizzo has that power. She also has her flute, a tool possessed by literally no one else in pop music in 2019. The woodwind doesn’t so much flutter as soar as we hear Lizzo play between heavy breaths.
“Cuz I Love You” is perhaps the most empowered two-in-one album opener/title track of the year. Backed by an orchestra of horns, keys and trap beats, Lizzo admits that although “I thought I was love-impaired,” she’s finally hip to love, ready to put her beau on a plane and fly him to wherever she happens to be. “Juice,” which we’ve been slurping up for months now, is so sticky and catchy you might slip in it. Closer “Lingerie” is Lizzo’s “Let’s Get It On,” an inviting, blush-inducing beg for sex. Lizzo asks for what she wants—and she gets it.
Lizzo has been shining bright for years now, but with Cuz I Love You, she’s finally glittering for all the world to see, this album cycle giving her the national spotlight that she has long craved and deserved. Her music and her persona may be inextricably entwined, but it’s a delightfully fun package. Arguing with Lizzo is tricky business—it’s difficult to disagree with someone who has so much confidence in herself, which is why Cuz I Love You is such a winner. Lizzo is impossible to ignore, and with this album, she proves she’s here to stay.