Lizzo’s revised title track ‘Special’ adds SZA’s vocals but still sustains what makes it just that - SPECIAL.
It happens to the best of us at the worst of times. You wake up on the wrong side of the proverbial bed. You get up, reluctantly. You get changed, brush your teeth and make that coffee with an extra shot of espresso to see yourself through the day because boy, you know damn well it’s gonna be a long one.
Everything is going wrong. Nothing is going your way. And then you speak to that one person, and they make a bad day good again. How? Because they made you feel special. No. Scrap that. They made you know you’re special. But sometimes, that person isn’t there. And in case nobody told you on those days, well now we can all rely on Lizzo (not bad company) and, apparently SZA too, who now features on a version of the title track of Lizzo’s fourth studio album, Special.
Truly, I adore this collaborative single from the pair! Since the album’s release, About Damn Time has been getting all the attention and awards, rightfully so, but I do hope that between this featured version of the single and its just-as-recent music video Special can get just as much love.
It’s got some great lyrics sprinkled in there, ones that really resonate and talk about the bad but overwhelming good in all of us: “Broken, but damn, you’re still perfect.” It’s even applicable on a societal, as well as individual, level, the public and personal psyche. It expertly captures the current social climate, for example, and the genuine struggles of the celebrity, especially those who are different from the classic pop singer look. Lizzo and SZA, two black women in a traditionally and historically white space, the music industry, remind us of the beauty and power of contemporary R&B. It’s different, but it’s still special.
And it’s not just what the single has to say, but also how it says it. I am, of course, referring to to the inclusion of SZA’s ever-increasingly popular vocals which help elevate the material. Her and Lizzo’s voices blend phenomenally well to make a song which sounds as sweet as a smoothie tastes. Interestingly, I believe this idea of elevation is reflected in the updated cover art which was released alongside the official audio. Although borrowing the same image of Lizzo shining (but when does she not?) in sequined headgear from the original album cover, it differs in its colourisation. Dripping gold and glamour, to me at least, signals how this truly takes the song from one level to the next.
Some people will read this and think I’m singing this song one too many praises, especially given it’s medium critical and wider reception. Yes, I might be biased being such a big fan of hers, and more recently SZA’s, but just because you don’t enjoy it as much as I do doesn’t make it any less good, or even enjoyable. Indeed, as the lyrics read “Woke up this morning to somebody judging me” because apparently the song is too on-the-nose in its ‘love yourself’ message, so obviously it’s cringe. Okay… This is how I see it: nothing is universally liked, but the people who are coming for this are only proving some of the song’s underlying messages correct, so quit while you’re ahead.
So, after all that, why have I only given it four out of five stars? You know when parents say they don’t have a favourite child, but you know they totally do? Same principle. I love all the tracks on this album equally, but it’s not quite my favourite, not that I would suggest ranking offspring in the same way we do music.
Whilst it doesn’t pack the pop punch of About Damn Time or the emotional meanders of Naked, Special is still special to me.