The queen of self-love has returned with Special, her anticipated follow-up to 2019's Cuz I Love You. Lizzo has been known to use her music as a platform for promoting body positivity and self-love, and on her sophomore major-label effort she seems to be taking her own advice, while also being more vulnerable than she has been in the past. Special is an album filled with gratitude and a push for new beginnings. The record’s main themes are immediately apparent, but that’s the beauty of it. Lizzo doesn’t have some poetically obscured code that you have to solve to find the real meaning—she’s just putting it right out there.
An important aspect of the album as a whole is how open she is about her insecurities and how that plays into her love life. From listening to Special, it’s easy to hear that she’s been going through some heartbreak and is trying to move on to a relationship with someone who actually treats her the way she deserves to be treated. This theme fits in comfortably with her ongoing story of self-love, and it likely resonates with many listeners. She’s gotten comfortable with her public image, but it’s still difficult to let someone in. She expresses a need to be seen the way she deserves to be seen, even on days when she isn’t feeling it herself.
My personal favorite part of the album was Lizzo’s love letters to her girls. While explaining how hard life was for her, she tells us what we all need to remember: relationships will come and go, but true friends are forever. She constantly shows gratitude for the friends that were with her through it all. In “Birthday Girl,” she sings, “I started from the bottom with my hoes / Love y'all so fucking much!” It feels like in music, when someone’s writing about a breakup, all we hear is the sadness. We never know how they healed. Lizzo reminds listeners that our friends are how we heal, and how we come out the other end of a relationship stronger. It isn’t often that we hear a ballad about platonic female relationships. I think we need more of those.
Special offers a new look at healing and shows so many sides to it. She doesn’t focus on the pain as much as she focuses on finding happiness in herself, and in the people in her life who she values. Lizzo continues to give us music that makes us feel empowered and inspires us to love ourselves more and more each day.