Music News

Lizzo Ignites a Debate Over Music Journalism

Lizzo slammed music critics. Twitter responded.
Cuz I Love You album art, Atlantic Records
Lizzo slammed music critics. Twitter responded.
Lizzo — the body-positive diva of self-empowerment who fancies herself the Aretha Franklin of this century — has skyrocketed in popularity. Tickets for her October 15 concert at the Fillmore Auditorium cost between $229 and $320, with one ticket buyer reporting that lines on Live Nation's website are 2,000 people deep. A second show was added at the Fillmore on October 16. Tickets go on sale at noon Friday, April 26, at Ticketmaster. Lizzo will also play an already sold-out show at the Ogden Theatre on May 1.

There's no doubt about it: Lizzo is no longer an opener or a cult figure, and critics are treating her accordingly. That includes criticizing her latest album, Cuz I Love You.

In a mixed review that garnered the album a 6.5 out of 10, seasoned critic Rawiya Kameir wrote in Pitchfork:

Despite her obvious skill and charisma, some of the album’s 11 songs are burdened with overwrought production, awkward turns of phrase, and ham-handed rapping. It’s hard to imagine her earning a spot in the pantheon of great, or even good, rappers when the opening lines of “Like A Girl” have the energy of an SNL sketch: “Woke up feeling like I just might run for president/Even if there ain’t no precedent/Switching up the messaging/I’m about to add a little estrogen.” Later, alongside perpetually cool labelmate Gucci Mane on “Exactly How I Feel,” echoes of the Black Eyed Peas’ triumphant, if soulless, stadium-pop ring hollow. There are highlights throughout — nearly every song has multiple captivating hooks — but the album’s peak comes at its end, with “Lingerie,” the sexy closer that is essentially orgasm-as-song. It is tongue-in-cheek, but somehow the most sincere Lizzo we hear.


Twitter exploded, with people coming to the defense of music writers, pointing to the fact that most are underemployed and underpaid, fueled by passion for music, and working multiple jobs to support their writing.

While some fans predictably came to Lizzo's defense, many who loved the album pointed out that whining about a music review and suggesting her critics should be fired was beneath her. Many raised the concern that too many artists view critics as promoters, subcontractors of PR firms or champions. Others went further, rebuking journalists who treat their own work as a promotional tool.

The Pitchfork review has even risen above Lizzo's own website in Google searches of her name, thanks to the excess of attention she brought to it.

A day after her initial tweet, Lizzo made a bold offer: “THIS IS AN INVITATION TO ALL MUSIC JOURNALISTS TO KICK IT IN THE STUDIO WITH ME FOR MY NEXT ALBUM! I’d like to understand your world as much as you can understand mine.”

All music journalists?

Thousands said they would take her up on the offer. Many fans said they'd become music journalists just for the chance. Even critics said they'd be interested in the possibility, and expressed what true "fans" they were — some going so far as to tell her about the instruments they play, to address her concern about writers who don't understand the songwriting and production processes.

Malicia Dabrowicz requested, "Lizzo — please please open this invitation to starting out bloggers and zine makers esp those of color, women, non binary ppl who work their assess to break new music and have no access to artists of your calibre. Please make it happen!"

Unless Lizzo's studio is an arena, she's going to have trouble packing in all the music journalists, bloggers and fans posing as critics trying to get her attention. And ultimately, the more reviews she receives — good and bad alike — the less time she'll have to pay attention to what critics are saying.

Americana singer Jason Isbell, who has also received unflattering Pitchfork reviews, weighed in on the flap with a dose of humor: "When Pitchfork gives you a bad review don’t get angry — the best thing to do is call your hundred closest friends who’ve had the same experience and all get together and roll around naked in diamonds."

Lizzo, 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue, SOLD OUT.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Lizzo was opening for HAIM in 2019. That show happened in 2018.