Music artists use their art to express a spectrum of emotions and singer/ rapper Lizzo is no different. She is taking a multitude of genres to get her point across as she weaves her musical tapestry into America’s soundtrack. Her message is one of self-worth, body positivity, and female empowerment.
Detroit born Melissa Jefferson, Lizzo, moved to Houston with her family as a child where she was exposed to gospel at home, took flute lessons, and played in her school’s marching band. She went on to study classical flute performance at the University of Houston, but the loss of her father when she was 20 caused her to drop out and seek solace in a new area, with a new sound that enveloped her musical senses, Minneapolis where she quickly immersed herself in the city’s music scene.
Thriving in Minneapolis
She performed with groups including Lizzo & the Larva Ink and the Chalice, whose debut album We Are the Chalice dropped in 2012. She continued working on her own style and music and released her 2013 debut album Lizzobangers. The following year, Lizzo worked with Prince on his album Plectrumelectrum and made guest appearances on tracks by Clean Bandit, Bastille, and DJ Name. Her second album released in 2015 Big Grrrl Small World was an eclectic set of songs that showcased classic and contemporary hip hop and R&B. That album caught the attention of Atlantic Records and a slot opening for Sleater-Kinney on their reunion tour.
Lizzo relied on her gospel training for the EP The Coconut Oil which featured the songs “Worship” and “Good as Hell” and landed on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart. Following a stint hosting MTV’s “Wonderland,” Lizzo issued the 2017 anthem “Truth Hurts.”
Body Positivity in the Music
In 2019, she released her full length album, Cuz I Love You. The single “Juice” reached number 23 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart.
Her collaboration with Missy Elliott, a song called “Tempo,” that lends to a twerk worthy anthem full of guitar prowess that even Prince would be proud of.
Lizzo switches from playing her flute onstage while twerking, switching from rapping to singing in rapid fire succession and applying music theory to her music. The single, “Truth Hurts,” lauded the singer her first top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100!
To her, genre doesn’t exist. In a tweet, she explained, “So glad I never settled for a genre. Genre is dead.” and in a recent interview, Lizzo said, “I’m the genre. My voice is the genre.” Lizzo’s vocal abilities and penchant for the themes in her sound is a sort of a genre. It’s a part of her story, one of self discovery and learning to love herself, a musical journal or self help manual delivered in the form of songs you can dance too. It’s a genre that reaches an array of demographics, women of all races, no matter the relationship status, struggling with body image etc, Lizzo’s music is an important genre that helps heal. In an interview with Time, Lizzo explained that the music is her self care. “When you listen to a Lizzo song, some people might be like ‘Wow, she’s so happy all the time,’” she says. “But no, she’s working on being happy. I want my music to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of where I want my life to be.” No matter the genre, from rap to funk and soul, Lizzo will continue bridging the power of positivity in the music.