Review Summary: Ms. Nomer
Let’s get something out of the way; Lizzo, Melissa Viviane Jefferson, is a phenomenal singer. Influenced in equal parts by hip-hop and soul, she’s able to belt out lyrics with pathos, bombast, and vulnerability. Best of all, as her breakthrough album Cuz I Love You confirmed, she’s still expanding her range and finding new ways to channel her emotion even into a single word (see: Jerome
Now for the bad news; she’s stagnant.
There’s nothing special about her latest work. After the wild ride of ups and downs on Cuz I Love You, Special comes across as a series of somewhat worthwhile, danceable tracks with absolutely nothing new on display. Worse, the production seems to have taken a hit as well. Flange-drenched guitars that gave texture to tracks like Juice
are mostly absent. The brass is MIA as well, placed well into the back of the mix when making an appearance. In their place are a series of passable beats, a heavier emphasis on bass and synth. It feels as if Lizzo felt compelled to make a series of tracks with the same theme of “*** all this negativity, let’s dance”. And you know what, more power to her. However, this does not a particularly engaging listen make.
The lack of variety can be felt in the lyrical department here as well. Here’s a fun game, take a shot every time “bitch” is uttered. I’ll go easy on you; take a shot when “bitch” gets used out of context or outside of a chorus/verse. You’ll pass out before making it through the third track and you haven’t even arrived at I Love You Bitch
. This may seem like nitpicking, but it’s indicative of a lack of imagination, a regression from maturity. The lyrical motifs are limited to love, self-love, and revenge partying.
It all makes for a compilation of songs that don’t have much to say. Lizzo is at her best when she’s telling a story, throwing the weight of her raw emotion behind the lyrics. With an enormity of talent at her disposal and the lethargy brought on during the covid times behind her, it’s about damn time for Ms. Jefferson to realize the full range of her artistic potential.