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‘Cuz I Love You’: Why We Still Adore Lizzo’s Breakthrough Album
Warner Music
In Depth

‘Cuz I Love You’: Why We Still Adore Lizzo’s Breakthrough Album

The album on which Lizzo realised her full potential, ‘Cuz I Love You’ remains a glorious statement of intent from an unstoppable force.

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“I’m not the cookie cutter that you expect from a mainstream pop artist,” Lizzo said in 2019, when her third album, Cuz I Love You, was released. “I’m always going to be a novel idea to people, but that’s what makes me, me… and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

The album Cuz I Love You asked a lot of its creator. It was three years in development, although its main lyrical inspirations came from the summer of 2018 and Lizzo’s decision to enter therapy. The self-examination that therapy demanded of her led Lizzo to approach lyrics differently, writing “actual scenarios” – the world as it was – rather than how she wished it to be. It meant Cuz I Love You was stark in its openness, relatable in its vulnerability, and – of course – incredibly exciting in its immediacy.

“Last summer was transformative for me,” she said in 2019. “The girl that you see onstage is now also coming alive in the songs.”

Listen to ‘Cuz I Love You’ here.

Who is the original singer of Cuz I Love You?

Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Jefferson, is the original singer of the track Cuz I Love You, and all the other songs on the album. Lizzo is a singer, rapper, flautist and phenomenon.

She is also an electric live performer, and on Cuz I Love You she felt, for the first time, that this intensity was captured in the studio. Prior to the album, Lizzo had found herself suffering from crippling perfectionism when recording; this was in contrast to the uninhibited, audience-connecting fire of her live performances. She particularly credits Sam Harris (of X Ambassadors) for transforming her approach and capturing her freedom on Cuz I Love You. Harris worked with Lizzo on four of the album’s songs – Jerome, Exactly How I Feel, Heaven Help Me and the title track.

“It’s been so inspiring to work with an artist like Lizzo,” Harris said in the wake of Cuz I Love You’s release. “The thing I admire the most about her is that she really, really knows who she is and what she likes, and also is not afraid to embrace that she is multi-dimensional.”

What was Lizzo’s first hit album?

While Cuz I Love You wasn’t Lizzo’s first album – both Lizzobangers (2013) and Big Grrrl Small World (2015) preceded it – it was Lizzo’s debut full-length on a major label, and her first to crack the Billboard album chart (peaking at No.4).

Her first release on Atlantic Records was the EP Coconut Oil (2016) but, prior to that, Lizzo put out her music on independent labels, or on her own imprint. When she signed to Atlantic, she felt that the move was right for her. “I was looking at Aretha Franklin on the walls,” she said, recalling how she felt when visiting the label’s offices. “I [thought about] I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You. That’s what I want [Cuz I Love You] to be – the album that defines my career. People are gonna be like, ‘That shit was just the beginning, and from then on it was forever lit, and she won every award.’”

That shit was, indeed, just the beginning. The enormous success of Cuz I Love You fed into 2022’s Special, an album that would scale even greater commercial peaks – in the US, Special was the highest-charting album by a female artist in 2022.

Who wrote the songs on ‘Cuz I Love You’?

Lizzo, in collaboration with others, wrote every song on Cuz I Love You. “My lyrics are so manic sometimes,” she said in 2022. “Cuz I Love You is ‘I’m going through it’… I’m doing real shit lyrically.” She is an incredibly schooled and knowledgeable writer, with genre-spanning influences and deep musical knowledge underpinning her work.

“My music is relatable because everybody wants to be better, love themselves, and be 100 per cent that bitch,” Lizzo has said about her lyrics. “I don’t think that I’m preachy or condescending. You can hear the earnestness, and that I’m actually trying and aspiring to be that, too.”

Like A Girl, the album’s second track, is a perfect example of this. “Woke up feelin’ like I just might run for President/Even if there ain’t no precedent,” Lizzo raps in the opening lines. Reclaiming the phrase “like a girl”, often used as an insult (“run like a girl” becomes “run it like a girl” in the song), doesn’t only drain the insult of its original power – it transfers that power to Lizzo. Knowing all the anti-Black, misogynistic and fat-shaming abuse Lizzo has received in her life, that in itself is a radical act.

What singles were on ‘Cuz I Love You’?

Juice and Cuz I Love You were the two singles released from Cuz I Love You – and they are very different to one another. Juice is a paean to self-esteem and loving your own presence. Lizzo has said “I think [the word] ‘juice’ is kinda freaky. I think ‘juice’ is spiritual and special. I think it’s Black pussy.” The song was inspired by 70s funk and 80s hip-hop, and there were no short-cuts to creating it. Everything was authentic, from the vintage synths to Lizzo’s friends providing backing vocals.

Cuz I Love You is simply a showstopper. It carries a feeling of stage musicals, of past-times glamour, and lets Lizzo’s voice fly like never before. She has spoken of how she felt exposed when she used her voice in this new way. “I was like, ‘I’m afraid of my voice. I’m afraid of people thinking that I’m one thing,” she told Rolling Stone in 2019. “I had to just lose that fear, because the more people get to know me, the more they’ll realise I have many, many, many levels to me.”

Another track, Tempo, was released as a promotional single ahead of the album. This is a downright joyful anthem, with added cowboy hats in the video, and a glorious turn from Missy Elliott. Working with the hip-hop icon was a dream for Lizzo, who had long admired Elliott’s intense creativity and used it as an inspiration for her own art. “Without [Missy] I would have been trying to chase a completely different type of career,” Lizzo told Teen Vogue in 2018.

How did ‘Cuz I Love You’ make Lizzo a star?

Prior to the release of Cuz I Love You, Lizzo had a small-but-devoted audience. She was loved by indie hip-hop heads, riot grrrls and LGBTQ+ communities (with many, many overlaps between those groups of people). Batches And Cookies, her single with Sophia Eris, from 2013, was particularly adored as an irreverent, surreal shot in the arm.

Cuz I Love You took Lizzo’s delight in life, her sex positivity, her empowering philosophy and willingness to fight to a global audience. Her sound gained fullness and strength, matching the gravitas of her songs. Or, as Lizzo herself put it: “I’m a thick bitch, I need tempo. Fuck it up to the tempo.”

“I always choose honesty and I always stay true to myself, because I know at the end of the day that is what’s going to remain,” Lizzo said in 2019. “That is what’s going to be the legend: That I was true to myself and that I honoured every person by staying truthful to them.”

Find out where Lizzo ranks among the most influential female musicians of all time.

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