There were more than a handful of people garbed in “Lizzo 2020” shirts at the singer-rapper’s sold-out 9:30 Club show Sunday night. And her recent spate of late-night TV appearances and viral social media moments — especially as an ebullient flutist — has indeed felt like the run-up to an important campaign announcement.
She even took a moment during her D.C. show to call out politicians and advocate for alliances in the wake of Alabama’s abortion ban.
“Every time we get our hearts broken by the people who are supposed to be protecting us, it’s always the same people that speak up. Activists. Queer people. Brown people. Black people. Women. Marginalized groups. We’re always the ones speaking up,” she told the crowd to loud cheers on the first night of a two-show run. “But I really want to seek out new allyships in this new world we’re creating. We’re forging a new future.”
Before stumping — erm, touring — for her latest album, the anthemic, pop-rap confection “Cuz I Love You,” Detroit-born Melissa Jefferson was involved in numerous musical projects, from hip-hop groups to rock bands. While in the Minneapolis music scene, Lizzo made her solo turn on 2013’s fist-pounding, rapid-fire rap opus “Lizzobangers.” Her first major-label release was 2016’s buoyant pop-soul EP “Coconut Oil,” on which she would start fine-tuning her to-the-rafters belting and melodic flow.
Now, on “Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo’s vocals soar even higher, amplifying lyrics about forging space for yourself and unapologetic self-acceptance. But what had seemed flattened and saccharine on record came to full life and flavor during her concert.
Lizzo opened the show with powerhouse vocals on the title track, gliding above the raucous cheers. Accompanied by her DJ, Sophia Eris, and backup dancers known as the Big Grrrls, Lizzo’s songs took on more dimension with all the textures of her voice — the growls, cracks and slides within arm’s reach.
Each song was a high-energy celebration of resilience, complete with hip-shaking, hair-tossing accompaniment. On the funky “Boys,” Lizzo showed off a flirty side with slinky choreography. The cinematic power ballad “Jerome” let her showcase a vulnerability still encased in self-assurance, bringing her to her knees at one point as she let the notes skyrocket out of the venue.
And while Lizzo assured the crowd that the new album was about body positivity and self-love, its underlying message was truly about survival: “This album, for the last three years, was about how to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back.”