Say it with me: Critics are not your PR agents. <br />
Say it with me: Critics are not your PR agents. Courtesy of Atlantic Records
Online music magazine Pitchfork dropped an album review for Lizzo's Cuz I Love You late last night. The record, which came out last Friday, entered the arena during a time of immense Lizzo celebration, with critics heaping praise upon the singer—this writer included. But Pitchfork's take—expertly written by contributing editor Rawiya Kameir—was not ecstatic. It was tempered. Shady. Comparisons to both Natasha Bedingfield and Meghan Trainor were made. It did that thing that good writing does where it pushes its reader to think a little differently about whatever cultural product they've just consumed. She gave name to hesitation about the album that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Here's a slice for ya ass:
She joins the proposition for genreless music at an interesting time, with artists as varied as Halsey and BTS and Khalid confirming the inevitability of such a future. “I’m the genre. My voice is the genre,” Lizzo said in a recent interview. And that’s technically true; she is what ties together the fun, anti-gravity pop of “Tempo,” featuring an inventive, compelling verse from Missy Elliott, and the pussy-hat optimism of “Better In Color.” But really, much of Cuz I Love You sounds like an improvement on any given major-label writing session. “Soulmate,” for example, plays like it could just as easily, if more cloyingly, be performed by someone like Meghan Trainor. (Lizzo and Trainor share a producer in Ricky Reed.)

I cackled. I low-key agreed. Lizzo was less thrilled about the comparisons. Last night after the review dropped, the musician tweeted: "PEOPLE WHO 'REVIEW' ALBUMS AND DONT MAKE MUSIC THEMSELVES SHOULD BE UNEMPLOYED." We can't be certain that she was specifically referring to Kameir's Pitchfork review, but the timing makes sense. She followed up this tweet this morning with, "THIS IS AN INVITATION TO ALL MUSIC JOURNALISTS TO KICK IT IN THE STUDIO WITH ME FOR MY NEXT ALBUM! I’d like to understand your world as much as you can understand mine."

While I appreciate the open (and impossible) invite, Lizzo's first tweet is whack. Though she walked it back a bit on her timeline, it reads as an overreaction from a critically acclaimed star to a review that was pretty balanced in its negativity. But it's the kind of dialogue and chaos I live for! At its best, criticism—done in good faith—takes what an artist does very seriously and dissects what makes it work or what doesn't. It can offer a perspective and open up a work in a way that maybe the artist didn't intend and can make connections others haven't thought of. It, too, is a mode of expression and creativity. It can be fun. It can be difficult. It's also a role that is paid very little.

Ultimately, I'm stoked that a piece of writing by a black critic on a black artist could get such a reaction (online at the very least). And while, yes, I thought the album was a little overproduced, dabbled in "empowerment-core" and was loud in no direction at times, I 100% bounced my titties to "Tempo" at a party this weekend. And honestly, "Unwritten" is a bop? As consumers of art, we are capable of holding many different feelings about art and music in our heads that are contradictory, but still note its importance.

Kameir agrees: "Lizzo’s music performs an important social function. The sound might disappoint, but there will be people moved to transformations of their own thanks to her songs. And that’s important, too." But the most crucial takeaway comes from a certain Morf Vandewalt from Velvet Buzzsaw: