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Special by Lizzo | Album Review

by Niko Tomaz 21 days ago in album reviews
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The second major-label album from the Minneapolis-native singer is her empowering message to break free unapologetically but often dims her shine.

The second major-label album from the Minneapolis-native singer is her empowering message to break free unapologetically but often dims her shine.

The second major-label album from the Minneapolis-native singer is her empowering message to break free unapologetically but often dims her shine.

"Special" was released on July 15, 2022, via Nice Life Recording Company & Atlantic Recording Corporation.

The fourth album from Lizzo, “Special” is both effusively empowering and irritatingly inhabitant, where big hits build, lyrical limitations lose traction and often fail. It shows her dimming her shine, while looking on bright sides.

Score: 6.4/10 ⭐⭐⭐

At this point, Lizzo needs no introduction. The witty and playful charisma she embodies has been making hits for years, pocketing Grammys, and even becoming an influencer for empowerment on social media. She's the plus-size powerhouse the world needs and clearly, she has talent. But on her fourth album “Special”, she misuses her talent to commercialize body positivity, instead of going in-depth with her beauties, it's both effusively empowering and irritatingly inhabitant, where big hits build, lyrical limitations lose traction and often fail. It shows her dimming her shine while looking at bright sides. Lizzo takes on a more political and activistic approach which at times seems like her point to get across being a big star, but it often falls on the wrong side of her chance at breaking new ground here on "Special", which is that "she's that 100% that b***h", but this is nothing new to Lizzo. Her last album is 2019's "Cuz I Love You" which was an extravagant appeal to feeling good in your own body and getting groovy, but "Special seems like a broken record. It shows new styles, but her attempt at progressing is usually smeared by using disappointing formula.

"Special" has moments where it shines, however. The production is up to par, and Lizzo makes use of the lively rhythmic drum and bass ("The Sign", "Special"), and excels at it during the first half of the record, which is the shining star of it the first place. The second half seems to slack off drastically of how unhooked and unabashed Lizzo sounds and seems to lose traction of the theme in full. The deep cuts make a difference and save the record from drowning of which the singer uses the groove and sticks her heel in it too deep and suits for satisfying everyone with empowerment jams. It breezes by with songs that seemed designed for the stadium-sized circuit and that are interesting and experimental enough that they’ll fit with Lizzo’s aesthetic, but end up bringing out of the ordinary. When it works, it works, and when it doesn't, you get ballads titled "I Love You B***h" and an honorable cry to "Coldplay"? At a perfect time when she could have cemented her status as a pop powerhouse princess, "Special" is such a disappointment because you can hear the better album she’s capable of. But she insists on trying to please everyone, rather than discovering her own sound or channeling that charming charisma of hers we know is there.

Special opens with "The Sign", a largely successful cut that captures her charismatic flair. It's a magnetic attraction for listeners looking for Lizzo's grand introduction. And it also plays as a standout, highlighting all characteristics Lizzo implemented and brought into the record: Production, lyricism, and approach. Lizzo's approach is so much more different in recent times becoming an even bigger star than she was before, but sometimes becomes so universalized that it blurs it out of focus. Like the catchy but confounded "Grrls" or "Birthday Girl" which bring oversweet commercial pop to Lizzo's discography. She's also bringing A-list pop producers on the ride like Max Martin and Ilya Salmanzadeh for the album which blends in well at times like "2 Be Loved (Am I Ready) and "About Damn Time" which surprisingly are crafted thoroughly enough to become radio-play specials, and it's well deserved.

Though uneven at times, Special is a bright, fun album with the glossiest pop sheen smoothed over it. Lizzo leaves her brand and settles for an increasingly boxed-in mission to promote empowerment and positivity, but it all shows her wit. Her wit is her specialty, belting on R&B-reminiscent tunes to self-improvement. Lizzo wrote about 175-200 songs for Special, she knows what she's doing. If her message is to make your inner self proud and esteem, then she's doing it more than right, even if it comes with the over-drawn output of her attempt. Lizzo has made it her point to serve bangers here and there, with disco and pop elements, so her versatility is like none other. She’s a very special pop star, and she wants to share a bit of her magic with all of us, leaving us feeling that much more special, too.

- L

Buy Lizzo's fourth studio album "Special" now on Rough Trade

album reviews

About the author

Niko Tomaz

a music writer from miami

vinyl collector

reviews weekly

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Nice work

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  • Amber Yee 15 days ago

    Yes love this I’m here for it

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