She has eight nominations Sunday night, a performance slot and the devotion of fiercely loyal fans. What’s behind this Lizzo momentum? Let’s discuss.
JON PARELES Lizzo enters this year’s Grammy Awards with the most nominations — eight, including all four top categories. Nominations don’t guarantee wins — ask India.Arie or Jay-Z — but Lizzo also has a prime-time slot as a performer, and she knows how to take over a screen.
Going big, of course, is Lizzo’s home turf and her brand. She’s a physical force, reveling in her body. Her musical skills are considerable: Singing, rapping, writing, playing flute and leading an ecstatic troupe onstage, she’s a full-spectrum entertainer. She’s ubiquitous as a celebrity, online presence and self-appointed idol, an exemplar of unshakable self-love and punch-line-slinging, take-no-guff arrogance who started her 2016 EP, “Coconut Oil,” with a song that instructed, “Worship me!” (Her social-media posts mingle her own milestones with fans testifying about how she helped them accept themselves.)
And she turns up the volume, speed and energy. “Cuz I Love You,” her long-in-the-making major-label debut album — Lizzo’s first indie album, “Lizzobangers,” came out in 2013 — literally starts with a scream and rarely lets up from there.
CARYN GANZ Wins or no wins, this is Lizzo’s year at the Grammys, which isn’t a shock because 2019 was Lizzo’s year everywhere: the charts (she earned her first No. 1 with “Truth Hurts”), the red carpet (did you catch her tiny Valentino bag?), so many presidential candidates’ playlists (we see you are feeling “Good as Hell,” Pete Buttigieg!). It helped that her hallmarks — the emotional cheerleading, the fierce attitude, the big-tent sound — aligned so perfectly with the national mood distilled to its rawest form on social media, where people (young women in particular) are anxious, angry, craving humor and distraction, and tired of seeing perfectly posed influencers flogging tummy-slimming teas and pretending to be flawless. And the B-side to all that, of course, is Lizzo has the voice and stage presence to back everything up.
JON CARAMANICA In a year when the Grammys were looking to display an embrace of difference, a modicum of open-earedness, a sense that the show is taking place in the present day and not being hologrammed in from a decade or two earlier, it would have been difficult to invent a musician better suited to the situation than Lizzo.
Lizzo is indisputably modern — a singer and a rapper, a meme-ready (or meme-biting) songwriter, a hilariously present personality in every sense. And yet she is completely legible to the sorts of people who vote for Grammys: She prefers time-tested pop structures, she revisits the sweaty soul and disco energy of the 1970s, and sometimes even finds herself channeling some 1920s bawdiness. Or there’s that one song that (lawyers stop reading here) rips off Bruno Mars ripping off everyone else, which is the type of thing Grammy voters love, because it reminds them of when they were relevant.
WESLEY MORRIS That, Jon C., I must say, is the only nagging element of “Juice.” It really is a Bruno Mars song. And Lizzo makes the approximation feel like a dare — anything Bruno can do, she can do with a flute. But there’s more going on with the sweetest sugar of that song. The chorus also knows the real delight of CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” is the stanked-up “Ya-ya-ee,” so it swipes that, too. “Juice” is a perfect pop song. All high. Even the deadpan bridge — “Somebody come get this man” — is cleverer than it needs to be. (You guys, why is that not up for record or song instead of, or alongside, “Truth Hurts”?) SEE MORE ON THIS STORY:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/arts/music/lizzo-grammys.html