Showing captivating progression throughout the years, Lizzo has come full force with a follow-up containing groovilicious vibes. The production is luscious and hypnotic; choruses are catchy, feeling like candy that you can’t stop indulging. Unfortunately, Lizzo makes the word bitch become more of a gimmick with a few tracks. It skews the monstrous bangers and eloquence which envelop them. Yet, Special has more beneath the surface, as Lizzo weaves these remarkable self-affirming jams that speak to the emotional core of any fan. Lizzo bridges lyrical depth with bright dance numbers, creating exceptional synergy between one’s reflection of the themes and the urge to get and groove; however, it stumbles on a few tracks, losing traction as it panders to her staple phrases.
Lizzo’s Special continues the current trend amongst pop artists–the disco(and post-disco), 90s dance/synth-pop nostalgia. It has gotten replicated, and it often teeters on the standard. They are effective, but it struggles to bring anything new into the realm of pop, and at times, it lacks nuance. It separates the Dua Lipas and Beyonces with the Zara Larssons and Ava Maxxs; Lizzo reflects the former; she incorporates various styles like R&B and Funk to expand beyond a drum machine and synthesizers. You hear this instantly with two dynamite hits in “The Spins” and “About Damn Times,” two funkadelic-disco hybrids that radiate infectious connectivity, making your body tingle, telling you to get and dance. But beneath these complexions are spews of confidence that sees Lizzo feeling like she’ll have a predominant place this summer–she reflects a status equivocal to blockbuster, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The collection of producers on the album come in full force with sounds that slightly contrast but complement the progression for a crisper listening. It’s more so with “Grrrls” and “I Love You Bitch,” which aren’t as captivating that you’re thrown off by some of Lizzo’s decisions lyrically and vocally. They are empowering tracks that waste beautiful production from Omar Fendi, Blake Slatkin, Benny Blanco, ILYA, and Max Martin. They come together for an effective dance/rap-pop track that wastes a melodic interpolation of “Girls” by Beastie Boys (“Grrrls”) and a luminous Dance-R&B Ballad that leans toward the latter (“I Love You Bitch”). Fortunately, they are the shorter tracks on the album, never overextending their presence, especially with the beautiful “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)” in between keeping you on your toes. It’s always refreshing to hear Lizzo find a way to incorporate emotional gravitas while incorporating tongue-in-cheek reflections about body positivity. When you hear Lizzo sing:
“How am I supposed to lovе somebody else (Shee, shee, shee)
Whеn I don’t like myself? Like, ooh
Guess I better learn to like this, ooh (True)
It might take my whole life just to do (Damn, hey, hey)
He call me Melly (Ayy), he squeeze my belly (Yeah)
I’m too embarrassed (Ah) to say I like it
Girl, is this my boo? (Is this my boo?)
That’s why I’m askin’ you ’cause you know I’ve been through”
: you know she’s able to expand lyrically, considering how detail-focus hip-hop verses can be. It starts a contemporaneous influx of sounds–sans “I Love You Bitch”–that lift you on your feet and feel a connection between Lizzo’s words, the grooves, and your reflections. It’s honestly fantastic, as Lizzo lets the world in, giving us these sentiments about herself, like loneliness, and then exuberating spiritually vibrant vocals that simple-message-driven tracks contain the gravitas to reel you back. The vivacity that exhumes from the pores of tracks like “Special” and “Birthday Girl” gives you something to reflect on and groove without losing a sense of the message.
The jubilance within the second half of Special isn’t as hit or miss, with mainly hits–save for one track. With “Everybody’s Gay,” where Lizzo doesn’t play coy as she tries to drive home a sense of unity but gets easily forgotten when compared to other excellent tracks. Lizzo isn’t provocative nor compelling as a double entendre; it helps that the producers incorporate samples in ways, like “Doo Wop (That Thing)” on “Break Up Twice” or the harmonious interpolations of Rick James’ “Give It to Me” on the previously mentioned “Everybody’s Gay.” There is an eloquence to them, even though Lizzo doesn’t deliver with a perfect score card–i.e., “Grrrls.” But as it rounds out, Lizzo delivers another great album that’s lively, vibrant, and never plodding at a messaging level.
Special is one of the better records released in 2022, but that bar isn’t high, and Lizzo will make sure to retain your attention all summer–even with the new Beyonce album roadblock. It left me wanting to repeat the sugary coated production with earwormy choruses, especially as I groove away, and it will do so for you, even if the layers aren’t always that complex. Just know Lizzo will continue to make splashes, and we should all be here for it.