“If you thought that I was ratchet with my ass hangin’ out,” sings Lizzo on this slam-dunk comeback single, “just wait until the summer when they let me out the house, bitch.” If anyone can supply some Big Post Quarantine Energy, it’s the woman born Melissa Viviane Jefferson, but ‘Rumors’ is no basic banger. Her first new song in two years has so much going on that it takes several spins to unpack.
Yet because her blistering lyrics are wrapped in such a catchy funk-pop package, unpacking them is no chore at all. As its title suggests, ‘Rumors’ sees Lizzo confront the “shit on the internеt” that’s clung to her since she conquered the mainstream in 2019. First her single ‘Truth Hurts’ became a viral sleeper hit, then her excellent third album ‘Cuz I Love You’ cemented Lizzo’s rise from cult queen to body-positive, zeitgeist-defining superstar. We’re living in an era of features, so teaming with a fellow A-lister who’s weathered the online rumour mill, Cardi B, makes impeccable sense here.
Still, Lizzo is much too smart – and fundamentally positive in her approach – to make her clapback anything but playful. Here she flips the gossip cycle on its head by singing with a wink that “all the rumours are true” as she references everything from a juice cleanse that had her accused of promoting diet culture to slightly slut-shamey insinuations that “I get groupies at my shows”. So what if she does?
Lizzo is clearly having fun playing with her own public persona, but doesn’t forget to make a serious point about the extreme scrutiny faced by women in the public eye. “Spendin’ all your time tryna break a woman down,” she sings on the pre-chorus. “Realer shit is goin’ on, baby, take a look around.” She also finds time to remind us that “Black people made rock’n’roll” – a line that’s especially powerful coming from an artist who cut her teeth in the white-dominated Minneapolis indie scene.
Meanwhile, Cardi understands the assignment perfectly, referring to herself as “a Bronx bitch with some pop hits” and making light of the controversy caused by her unapologetically sex-positive mega-hit ‘WAP’. “Last time I got freaky the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] tried to sue me,” she humblebrags, fabulously. The result is a brilliant return from Lizzo that combines her signature sense of fun with some well-placed spikiness. On this evidence, she has no intention of relinquishing her self-proclaimed title as “America’s next bop star”.