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Lizzo Is In The Eye Of A Superstar Storm

Lizzo performing live at The TLA in Philadelphia.
Lissa Alicia
Lizzo performing live at The TLA in Philadelphia.

The night before Lizzoswooped off a 5 a.m. flight and into World Cafe, her colossal album Cuz I Love You made her the highest streaming artist on Spotify. She had just been nominated for a BET Award in the category of best female hip-hop artist alongside Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. She was right in the eye of a superstar storm, and she wasn't afraid to talk about the challenges that come alongside all the good bits of achieving her dreams. In Lizzo's words, "If I had to be fake during all this press and all of this work, I think that it would eat me alive."

Lizzo is a singer, writer, rapper, producer and classically trained flute player who has been training and working towards this incredible moment for a long time. We talked about the inspiration she drew from Aretha Franklin, what it was like for her to record with Prince when she was rapping in Minneapolis and the making of her major label full length debut (albeit her third studio album) Cuz I Love You.You can hear it all in the player, read selected highlights below and watch acoustic versions of "Cuz I Love You" and "Juice."

Interview Highlights

On living in the present

Good news takes a lot of energy, you know what I'm saying? So, I have been — I'm a little depleted. But I think it's a good thing, because my body is so much smarter than I am sometimes and I know it's about to get fueled back up tomorrow night at the show with some energy. So I'm taking it day by day and I've been smelling the flowers, the roses. I've been in the present moment, and I'm just so glad I finally got to this point. It took me a long time to get to this point in my career, but it also took me a long time to get to this point in my life where I can actually appreciate the present moment. It all kind of synced up at the same time. So everything that happens, I'm just getting the full celebration of it.

On the influence of Aretha Franklin

I had been thinking about Aretha a lot when I was coming up onto making this album. I was like, 'Oh, my God, this is my I've Never Loved a Mandebut on Atlantic Records.' We were the same age when these albums came out, and I just had all of this, like, not pressure, but I put a lot of expectations on myself to meet that record.

Also, when I was making this album, Aretha was still with us, physically, and I really wanted her to hear the album. So that was another huge — I was like, 'Man, if I could just, you know, one of these days have one of them play her one of my songs, or be able to sing at an awards show she'd be at.' So that was something I was always looking forward to and excited about and what really motivated me while making the record.

I felt the absence [when she died], you know? And it was really sad. But I'm also grateful that we existed in the same time as her. We all lived in the same time as Aretha. And that she could inspire me on this record. I'm so glad that she was alive while inspiring me on this record, because it's a whole different kind of energy. I was so motivated, and now that she's gone, I'm just eternally motivated. Always trying to make her proud. Even though we don't know each other. We never met. [ Laughs] But I want to make her proud like she's my grandma or something.

On Prince giving her a chance to shine on the song "BOYTROUBLE"

I was like, "I'm gonna give Prince everything. I'm gonna give him bars, punchlines, harmonies." ... And then when I listened to it, they left everything in, that really validated me because when he first gave us the song, he said: 'Treat this as if it's your song. Like it's not my song. It's your song.'

Prince was the first person to really make me feel validated as an artist when I heard that track. And I got paid! My first big check ever. Thank you, Prince, for my laptop.

On the public conversation around self-love

I say this on-stage to everybody: "I'm not gonna sell you the commercialized self-love. I'm not gonna sell you the hashtag self-care." I'm not into that. I feel a responsibility as a pioneer in this wave of body positivity to push the narrative further.

Now that everyone's caught up, and now that it's mainstream, the pioneers have a responsibility to take it further. And I'm taking it even further with self-actualization and how to use our emotions constructively to better deepen our relationship with self-love and ourselves.

I'm not even gonna get into it, but they're just saying, like, 'self-care is all facials and mimosas,' and there are people using the term 'body positivity' but still posting, like, really gorgeous glamour shots. And I get it. That's fine. Everyone deserves to speak on it, everyone deserves to have ownership of their body positivity. But I'm not just gonna settle for that anymore.

I think that there is something to emotions and vulnerability and expressing those emotions in a more vulnerable way to yourself that I think we haven't tapped into. And I think there's also something to realizing that bad days are still self-loving days, and you can still practice self-care on bad days because these are the days that aren't really glamorized or talked about or commercialized yet. ... It gets real nitty and gritty, and it gets real deep and it gets real dark, and I think that that's the next step to talking about self-love in this mainstream space.

Copyright 2020 XPN. To see more, visit XPN.

Talia Schlanger hosts World Cafe, which is distributed by NPR and produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. She got her start in broadcasting at the CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster. She hosted CBC Radio 2 Weekend Mornings on radio and was the on-camera host for two seasons of the television series CBC Music: Backstage,as well as several prime-time music TV specials for CBC, including the Quietest Concert Ever: On Fundy's Ocean Floor. Schlanger also guest hosted various flagship shows on CBC Radio One, including As It Happens, Day 6and Because News. Schlanger also won a Canadian Screen Award as a producer for CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, a cross-country rock 'n' roll road trip.
Since 2017, John Myers has been the producer of NPR's World Cafe, which is produced by WXPN at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Previously he spent about eight years working on the other side of Philly at WHYY as a producer on the staff of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. John was also a member of the team of public radio veterans recruited to develop original programming for Audible and has worked extensively as a freelance producer. His portfolio includes work for the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, The Association for Public Art and the radio documentary, Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio. He's taught radio production to preschoolers and college students and, in the late 90's, spent a couple of years traveling around the country as a roadie for the rock band Huffamoose.