Self-love can feel like a banal trend. Too often, self-love and self-care are relegated to the corner of the Internet that rewards baseless self-indulgence without actually addressing the root of our emotional concerns. Treating yourself for the sake of treating yourself obfuscates the point that self-love and self-care are both acts of heavy emotional labor, requiring the person to take difficult looks at themselves, label themselves in the wrong, and take concerted steps forward to being in the right.
Or, more simply, self-love is more than splurging on Amazon. Self-love and self-care can be fucking brutal.
On her new album, Cuz I Love You, Lizzo tackles the thorny process of falling in love with yourself with a welcome air of triumph. She does not mar her message with materialistic bars, nor does she sit in a vat of self-pity. Lizzo uses Cuz I Love You to showcase all of the benefits of falling in love with yourself, and by proxy, all the benefits of doing the work.
While much of the album is concerned with the highs, she just as well gives country to the moments where we are in our own emotional trenches. Because of that, Cuz I Love You is a wonderfully balanced and methodical album.
Lizzo combines sincerity and danceability to make both “Soulmate” and “Exactly How I Feel” the emotional cruxes of her record. There is an eagerness and glow to “Soulmate,” making it something declarative and honest.
Lizzo beams as she sings: “I'm my own soulmate (Yeah, yeah) / I know how to love me (Love me) / I know that I'm always gonna hold me down” on the chorus. To be sure, it takes little to make a self-love anthem. One gummy chorus is enough, but to make a self-love anthem of this magnitude—to make one this trustworthy—takes a level of sincerity and positivity which deserves to be rewarded.
“Bad bitch in the mirror like, ‘Yeah, I'm in love’,” Lizzo continues. It is the specificity of the imagery which makes us believe her. How easy to aimlessly say “I love myself,” but how difficult to approach the mirror, face ourselves, and mean it.
Lizzo works for her self-love, and she does it without feeding into the co-opting trends of self-care. Of course, this is not accidental. “True love ain't something you can buy yourself / True love finally happens when you by yourself,” she emotes. Here, Lizzo lets us know she’s in on the gag. She knows the easy way out of a bad mood is a quick splurge, but in the interest of long term happiness, you have to face yourself.
This is why it is so important “Soulmate” is an absolute jam: the work has to be worthwhile. For as fun as Cuz I Love You sounds, it’s a tall order of an album. Not only is Lizzo asking for us to avoid short-term pleasures in the pursuit of better days, but she is also asking the listener to consider being alone, a state which occupies a space of fear for damn near everyone.
The product, though, of being your own soulmate sounds all the better than avoiding emotional labor for short-term comfort. Lizzo makes stepping out of your comfort zone and pursuing your best self sound like waltzing into a never-ending party, and her messaging only strengthens on “Exactly How I Feel.”
On “Exactly How I Feel,” Lizzo runs through a range of negative emotions without lambasting them. She accepts her lows as a feature of her life, and instead of feeling sorry for herself, Lizzo chooses to work through her sadness and love herself.
There is something revolutionary about Lizzo’s assertive “I look pretty cryin’” bar, something altogether moving about her ability to take nebulous concepts like self-love and turn them into digestible one-liners. Taken at face value, this bar is a determined one. Lizzo refuses to stop caring for herself even when she is at her lowest. Thinking further, this bar is an important lesson on the difficulties of self-love.
When things are going swimmingly, it is easy to love yourself, to be self-indulgent, to be positive, and the like. But it is when life pulls the rug out, we are truly tested. The most important moments to love yourself are the moments where life feels borderline impossible to bear. That is what Lizzo teaches us with these four words: bear life, for you and this life are beautiful things. Survival does not have to be ugly; life’s difficulties do not have to stop you from carrying a pride in yourself.
The hook of the track is just as vital, a message in processing emotions rather than running from them. Really, the hook (“That's exactly how I feel”) acts as a vehicle for the rest of the track and for the ethos of the album. To truly practice self-care, you have to know yourself. Otherwise, who are you truly caring for?
In that respect, Lizzo makes the choice to sit with her emotions and accept them. This is not a resignation, but a new type of battle. Acceptance is one of the most difficult steps in growth, and Lizzo shows us acceptance can lead to a fucking riot of a good time. In that breath, Cuz I Love You is a rewarding body of work.
What’s so exciting about Cuz I Love You is we can all have a Cuz I Love You moment. Across the album, Lizzo makes choices to actively love herself and consider her long-term happiness. She uses the record as a show-and-prove of the benefit of getting down and loving yourself through the struggle. She uses the record to buck the trends of self-care and replace them with real-life anthems about real-life self-love. There’s a tangibility to her music you won’t find in a listicle telling you to treat yourself.
Lizzo tapped into the truth of self-care, and for that, we love her.