On Lizzo’s song Special
I’m a Lizzo fan. Her music is fun, energizing, playful and celebratory of self respect. The song Special narrates her response to criticism, the wisdom of loving yourself and her sincere support of others. There is an emotional digestibility to her lyrics rendered by the cadence of how she sings. As a listener, the message penetrates straight to my heart. This is not toxic positivity or the Pollyanna advice of just telling yourself you are special when you are down.
Lizzo embraces herself, and she’s arrived at this hard earned wisdom whether being criticized for being Black and heavy pre fame or envied post fame. In defiance of societal norms, she embraces her identities and consciously chooses to love herself and provide her own self regard. As Lizzo goes on to tell us how she is used to being alone, she turns to the listener and/or could be talking to herself when in self doubt here. There is something specific in the state of who she beckons to. Lizzo speaks directly to those who’ve never been seen, those who’ve only been put down, those who’ve considered being better off dead, and those who feel so broken. These are the most difficult states so many of us have been in.
Lizzo offers to the listener in these most abject and dark states connection, visibility, love, hope and survival. In telling us the narrative of her own arrival at self love and offering loving recognition to the listener, she staves off her own loneliness and shows us that self love is even more meaningful when we extend it to others who may need it the most.
“I'm used to feelin' alone, oh
So I thought that I'd let you know
In case nobody told you today
In case nobody made you believe
Well, I will always love you the same
I'm so glad that you're still with us
Broken, but damn, you're still perfect”
There is nothing hyperbolic about Lizzo telling us we are special. This is not a general free for all. In addressing those most devalued in our society and in the most despair and acknowledging that they are special, she deconstructs and turns on its head who deserves to be thought of as special and deserving of love. She goes on to point out the senselessness and cruelty of a society that chooses violent rejection if you don’t conform to its narrow standards
“Could you imagine a world where everybody's the same
And you could cancel a girl 'cause she just wanted to change?
How could you throw fuckin' stones if you ain't been through her pain?
That's why we feel so alone, that's why we feel so much shame, “
Lizzo defies being canceled and shamed through radical love to the self and others. The song Special models a panacea we can all partake in giving and receiving.