LOS ANGELES – For so long, Lizzo has been “that subliminal artist,” as she puts it. The 31-year-old singer, songwriter, flutist and inadvertent cheerleader for body positivity has been making music for years, but it took a while for much of the industry to take note.
That song that makes you want to wink at yourself in the mirror, put on your shiniest mini dress and break up with your boyfriend? That’s a Lizzo song. And once you learn her name (born Melissa Viviane Jefferson), you hear her empowering hits everywhere.
Now, she's a VMA nominee (she’s up for best new artist) who made waves with recent MTV and BET Award performances (Rihanna gave her a standing ovation), partnered with Absolut for a Juice drink collaboration (“Juice” is a song of hers) and finished the first leg of her North American tour (which features her classically trained flute playing, often paired with twerking).
She'll continue touring in September, after she takes a finger-quotes "break" from the road and spends time in the studio. She knows she's in the spotlight right now; she's keeping up the momentum.
Lizzo: A name you've never heard until you suddenly hear it everywhere
“I’ve had syncs in movies and commercials and television shows since I first started, but nobody knew who I was,” she says over salad and fries (which she insists are for sharing should I “get a hankering”).
Lizzo's premier single with Atlantic Records, “Good As Hell,” came out in 2016.
“I feel like people have always liked me for my personality, ha! But I also wanted them to know that I make (bomb) songs," she says. “Now, my notoriety has caught up with me. It’s a crazy effect."
Kind of like a Baader-Meinhof phenomenon: Once you start paying attention, you realize that Lizzo’s songs from the April album “Cuz I Love You” are all over the radio and have scored a number of films and TV shows. For example, they’re showcased in female-driven, female-directed comedies “Little” (“Like a Girl”), “BookSmart” (“Boys”) and “Someone Great” (“Truth Hurts”).
"That’s feminism, where we can just pull each other up in this industry," she says.
Her single 'Truth Hurts' is charting, almost two years after its initial release
Even more to Lizzo’s point: The latter song, a catchy hip-hop track that proclaims: “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 percent that b----,” hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 ... almost two years after its initial release. (It has also been included in the “Cuz I Love You” EP.) The 2017 single has even been made eligible for the next Grammy race.
Lizzo is back in the studio this week
Last week, she celebrated the song's success in the perfect place: the recording studio.
“Girl, it feels so good to be back in (there)!” she says.
Yes, she's working on new music.
"I have ideas. I’m not gonna get into it yet. It’s too early to say," she says, but will allow that the sound is “really different,” because she’s teaming up with new collaborators.
“I was like ‘Ahh, this is a blessing!’”
Connecting with fans, aka "Lizzbians"
Lizzo shared the chart news of “Truth Hurts” on Instagram, where she also posts clips from her shows and plenty of photos of her semi-nude self, including a recent one where she’s wearing little more than nipple covers in a photo captioned “I’m hefty!”
It’s a post that fits what has become Lizzo’s personal brand: self-empowerment and inclusion for all, big women, black women, the LGBTQ community and everyone in between.
“It doesn’t matter what size you are, if you’re a woman, if you identify as a woman, you have experienced some sort of marginalization or trauma or struggle in this country. Period. I think people ... look at a Victoria’s Secret model and they’re like ‘She has everything.’ But you don’t understand the type of pressures and the type of bullying that she deals with on her end," she says. "It’s not the same, but they still are experiencing something. I’m trying to empower everyone.”
In doing so, she also posts about days when she’s feeling vulnerable. As a result, fans feel an intimate kinship.
Out in public, "They don’t go, ‘Oh my God, are you Lizzo?’ They be like: ‘Lizzo!’ I turn around, and I’m like, ‘Huh?’"
"This happened at the airport," Lizzo recalls. "(A fan was) like, ‘You don’t know me, I just wanted to say hi.’ I was like, ‘Girl, why you talkin’ to me like you my mama?’ People really just feel close to me. And that’s cool. Buy my album!”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lizzo and her flute return to studio with 'really different' sound