Review: Cuz I Love You by Lizzo
Cuz I Love You’s title track opens the album with Lizzo’s soul-wrenching, vibrant voice admitting a painful truth sans music: “I’m crying, ‘cause I love you”, and before the last syllable has left her mouth, a loud brass sample comes in (if you thought it sounded familiar, but couldn’t put your finger on it, it’s from Phantom of the Opera) and Lizzo immerses herself completely in a song that is gospel, operatic, soul, and R&B wrapped into one beautiful package.
And it only gets better from there.
It’s almost as if Lizzo wanted to prepare us for her greatness by slapping us in the face with it. Title tracks don’t have to be first on the tracklist, but “Cuz I Love You” sitting at the top seems to be her way of telling us to get the fuck ready.
In the months leading up to Cuz I Love You’s release, Lizzo has become an icon of self-love on social media -- unapologetically fat, unapologetically Black, unapologetically woman -- and her songs only further confirm how deserving she is of that title. “Juice” and “Tempo” (featuring the legendary Missy Elliott), released as singles earlier this year, have become anthems for plus-sized women, particularly Black plus-sized women. “Soulmate” is literally a tribute to self-love (“I’m my own soulmate/I know how to love me/I know I’m always gonna hold me down”) and being the person you believe yourself to be, rather than who other people say you are (“I know I’m a queen/but I don’t need no crown”). “Exactly How I Feel” (featuring Gucci Mane), is a little more of a message to haters and an affirmation of self (“Love me or hate me/who are you changing?/And I don’t give a fuck!”, “Cry ‘cause I want to/smile if I want to/love ‘cause I want to/get so mad I could scream…”). Lizzo has made a name for herself being exactly who she is, and that is not going to change. Thank fucking God.
Lizzo isn’t trying to be radical, she’s just trying to speak the truth. But that, in and of itself, is radical.
For all of Lizzo’s (very important) feelings on lust and her statements on what it’s like to be sexual as a plus-sized person, the album makes profound declarations on love, too. Like “Cuz I Love You”, “Heaven Help Me”, the penultimate track, preaches on the fear and the pain of falling and being in love (“If love ain’t dead/I’mma kill it/’cause it’s killin’ me…”, “Even if you are the love of my life/sorry, baby, I got too much pride…”). Lizzo spits her cleverly-spun verses backed by a gospel choir for the first two minutes of the nearly three-and-a-half minute song. The surprising moment is when Lizzo’s vocals end and give way to the sound of someone sobbing. The crying lasts for about fifteen seconds before Lizzo returns, a different emotion present. Where before she was against love, now she is, briefly, considering it (“If love didn’t drive me crazy, maybe I’d be your baby”). The song finishes with a flute solo from Lizzo, which, honest to God, made me tear up the first time I heard it.
It’s not too hard to imagine Lizzo at the pulpit (especially since she used this exact visual for the “Cuz I Love You” music video -- I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the church themes are so abundant in her songs that are explicitly about love), preaching truths to an empathetic audience, and then overcome by the power of wearing her heart on her sleeve, fades out.
Lizzo’s songwriting is clever, funny, and deeply personal. Her sound on Cuz I Love You is reminiscent of the great voices and lyricists who came before her, but she is certainly not a replica. This highly-anticipated debut album delivered exactly what we were all hoping for and sealed this one final truth: we are now in Lizzo’s world, and we won’t be leaving anytime soon.