Special (Nice Life/Atlantic)
IT KINDA MAKES SENSE, but it’s still kinda weird that this album would be declared a “radical political statement” by one magazine.
Lizzo, the artist formerly known as Melissa, doesn’t use her fourth album to advocate for a particular party or even necessarily for specific issues. Voting rights? Reproductive autonomy? Environmental laws? Nup. Does she lay out some naysayers, smack down the ignorant and the aggressive, or slice and dice some dudes who did her wrong? Not this time.
And lordy, if you think politics isn’t meant to be fun, isn’t made to be danced to (or twerked to especially), isn’t meant to light up a Saturday evening or a brisk Tuesday morning, then Special will sound like the most un-political record of the year.
But maybe holding your ground, advocating for care and responsibility and not just freedom, owning your shape, your desires, your refusing to participate in the language or actions of general societal fuckery, and recognising pleasure for pleasure’s sake as an entirely justifiable principle, are truly radical and truly political statements.
In that case, I recommend you vote early and vote often with Special, voting as early as the first line of the record which greets us with “Hi motherfucker did you miss me?/I’ve been home since 2020/I’ve been twerking and making smoothies/It’s called healing”.
The “healing” has brought forth an album that throws itself at some of her favourite (musical and non-musical) things. Things like disco a la mode (the bass strut and jinky-jinky guitar of About Damn Time) and neo-soul (the strings-and-church of hip hop in Breaking Up Twice); like the affirmation of friends (the mutual love and support set in a pure ‘90s environment in Birthday Girl) and the, ahem, pleasures of getting down to it, as well as just getting down, at 3am in a place where ain’t nobody judging (the Earth Wind & Fire redux of Everybody’s Gay).
And yes, things like the nuanced state of being where you are letting all your vulnerabilities show while at the same time not letting that being an excuse for disrespect (the Prince-fresh ballad Naked where she can say “I’m a big girl, can you take it?” with equal parts openness, enquiry, and strength).
Special is a record of breadth rather than depth, spreading its pleasures out and not asking that you linger and ponder at any particular point on the way – even the interpolation of Coldplay’s Yellow in the album’s final track, Coldplay, tweaks the maudlin to something Natalie Cole-ish breezy and pinged with joy. The hired hands brought in here on the co-writing/producing side (some notable Swedes, an Anglo-American) are naturally inclined this way, and bringing them in was a (political) choice in itself.
Lizzo may be ahead of the curve with this. Consider that the coming Beyoncé album – if we can believe the rumours – supposedly leans more to poptastic than politics, and the likelihood this is what we need after two-and-a-half years of the plague, the lingering after-effects of three or four years of (now booted) flim flam men running the world, and summers now and ahead of us with the world burning up.
In any case, fun is in play, pleasures are at hand, Lizzo is here, if that’s where your vote lands.
SPOTIFY: Listen to Lizzo – Special
APPLE MUSIC: Listen to Lizzo – Special