If You Are A Prince Fan And Not Listening to Lizzo…Why Are You A Prince Fan?!
Yeah, I said it… and I mean it! ‘Dig if you will’ THIS picture...
If you are a Prince fan and not listening to Lizzo ask yourself why you are a Prince fan. You don’t have to be a Lizzo fan, but if you aren’t listening to her music, you are missing out on one very important aspect of her musical lineage, especially if you don’t go behind her commercial releases. Not only did she work with Prince in her pre-fame era, she embodies everything about the future of music—specifically, black music — that Prince was talking about in the years before he passed away.
How do we know that? Because he saw enough of it in her to put her on a track on an album that bore his name. In 2014, he picked her, out of all the unknown Minneapolis artists he could have possibly chosen, to collaborate with and recorded her. Lizzo and her then band, Chalice (with members Claire de Lune and Sophia Eris), was featured on the Prince and 3rdEyeGirl track, “BoyTrouble,” from the album, Plectrumelectrum.
No small feat for a relatively unknown artist at the time. Lizzo, whose given name is Melissa Jefferson, will be able to show that work for the rest of her life as an example of what it means to have a music legend deem your talent worthy enough to be billed beside theirs. Not only does she have this feather in her cap, unlike many artists who would have exploited such a connection — especially after April 21, 2016, Lizzo was relatively mum about this accomplishment. She was particularly so after his death to the point that some of you just learned the connection a few weeks ago, most of you are getting a lesson today.
I got mine when her third album, 2019’s Cuz I Love You dropped. It did so without his name attached to her bio for credibility and was released on its own merits of being a damn good album much the same way Dirty Mind, Sign O’ The Times and The Rainbow Children (unpopular opinion #1, I know, but I defer to my comment about “the future of black music”) were. With the exception of an October 17, 2014 appearance on The David Letterman Show to promote the Virgin Records re-release of her debut album, Lizzobangers, a Fuse interview in 2017, and a recent interview simply because she wore a symbol shirt, Lizzo rarely mentions her Prince connection when discussing her Minneapolis musical roots. To her, at least from her Fuse interview, working with him was a sacred experience, a “fairytale,” that became more so to her after his death. She pays tribute to him, she doesn’t pimp him and she’s selective about when and how those tributes occur.
Far be it from me to say what Prince would have wanted, that’s not really a fan’s place, but I read social media posts! I don’t comment (anymore) and I don’t go in the forum sites out there because I find enough negativity in the politics and other world issues I cover as a journalist that I don’t want or need as a consumer of pop culture. But, there are some Facebook groups I check out biweekly and recommend (Suzee’s Soul O(+> Sanctuary, ADORE…Tribute for Prince, Prince Fams Unite) and a few Twitter accounts I follow and interact with. What I will say is that if you haven’t already, you need to get some Lizzo in your life! She truly is one of the last great Prince protégés and by far will be one of the most critically-acclaimed and commercially successful of this era. Her song “Truth Hurts” just hit Billboard Hot 100, climbing over Taylor Swift.
No artist will ever replace Prince, but if you are a true music connoisseur, you should not only celebrate the past — you must also embrace the future the past has inspired and that means looking forward to what new artists can offer and the void they can fill when your favorite has made their departure. Particularly if you fancy yourself a 1980s Prince purist.
Songs like “Boys” (as you know, in the video she pays homage to Prince circa 1977),“Juice” and “Cuz I Love You” have a very Controversy-era feel tonally, but lyrically are reminiscent of songs like “Head,” “Automatic,” and “I Would Die 4 U.” Not literally, but emotionally she’s pulled from every cell in her being the way black artists have from the beginning of time to deliver something that is so uniquely US, it can’t easily be defined. That is what Prince did. She says she’s “church with a twerk.” And… she is! So was Prince in the ways he blended both the profane and the profound.
Besides that, the girl is just bad with a capital “B.” If you don’t believe me, check out her (NSFW) live performances. She sings, she rhymes, dances AND plays the flute — things Madonna never did in a wedding dress, she did at the BET awards in one. At the 2019 VMAs, she performed in a yellow bodysuit with an inflatable, twerking ass in the background. To some this may be crude. To black women, whose derrieres are literally the butt of jokes or commodities in the business of cultural appropriation, this is a cultural statement of self-awareness, esteem and ownership. Yet, it is also Lizzo just being Lizzo much in the way Prince performing in a yellow suit that bore his ass at the 1991 VMAs was Prince just being Prince.
As a true Prince fan, you are a student of music, as was he. In theory, it means you study. Lizzo is that next generation of musical talent you need to study. She’s deep. Prince respected her art enough to work with her. He had to have felt she could follow in his steps on some level and when you listen to her, he’s right. Some of you will argue with me for the artist he became after his religious conversion when it comes to some of her lyrical content. I will argue right back with you for the lyrical content of who he was at age 31, the age Lizzo is now. Think about it. Who knows how she will evolve when she reaches her 50s? For now, she is who she is and she is who he liked and that’s not much different than who she was in 2014, except she has more BoyTrouble to rap about.
She’s painfully honest. She’s “nobody’s celebrity totem,” as she told Trevor Noah. Her every emotion is laid bare before you — even more so than Prince, himself, was able to accomplish. You hurt with her. She makes you giggle, she makes you proud, confident in your skin (even the “skinny hoes” — gotta get some “Tempo” in your life to get the reference), she laments for “Jerome” (gotta know Prince to get that reference, I am a journalist and not all my readers are Prince fans!) and she shares our pain of loving a Gemini who was complicated, at times difficult, but at present is no longer in our stratosphere. In her case, though, that Gemini may not have been Prince, but she never says it isn’t either in “Soulmate” when she says, “the old me used to love a Gemini.” She reveals a lot of herself, but never of the whom she writes about. All we know is “Soulmate” is a “true story.”
If she’s not your flavor, she’s not your flavor, but unpopular opinion #2: there are some Prince protégés you all like that I just side eye the ENTIRE hell out of you about! Prince was generous. He gave a lot of untalented people a chance to shine. Then, he gave a lot of really talented people an opportunity to do something they loved doing, which was making music. Lizzo was one of those people.
So, I have just one more question for you. Why are you still HERE?! Get some Lizzo in your life! Check her out at the VMAs (NSFW) back in August. Also, catch the “Raspberry Beret” shout via the costume change:
Lizzo talks with Trevor Noah (also NSFW) about being a “band nerd,” knowing all her scales, doing Coachella for the first time and doing music for her dad and for herself:
And, of course, BoyTrouble by Prince & 3rdEyeGirl (Lizzo appears at 2:22):