How COVID-19 Played a Role in Lizzo’s Album ‘Special’

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced artists to adapt to a rapidly-changing world, including Grammy-winning musician Lizzo. Her fourth album Special is the result of three years of work through the pandemic, and much of the album’s message is rooted in celebrating life after lockdown.

Lizzo performing in honor of her album 'Special'
Lizzo | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Lizzo recorded her album ‘Special’ in lockdown

Though Lizzo started writing music for Special before the outbreak of the pandemic, most of the album came together in lockdown.

Lizzo reflected on the time in an interview with Elle UK. “It was hard for me to find meaning, being an entertainer, while people were dying at a high rate,” she said. “I had to remember, when we come out of lockdown, people are going to be coming out of a depression. And the end of lockdown does not signify the end of their mental-health struggles. So I wanted to make music that people can use as a soundtrack to survive. That was the driver for this album.”

Even though the songs are generally upbeat, including singles “About Damn Time” and “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready).”

“All of these incredible songs are giving people the language to express themselves and to have a release after everything they’ve experienced,” she said.

COVID informed her songwriting, according to Ricky Reed

Lizzo‘s longtime producer Ricky Reed spoke with Vulture about the recording process from his end. To be able to release her music after being in lockdown was satisfying for Reed.

“It has felt amazing,” he said. “We worked on the album since before COVID, right? And I have never personally poured so much love and hard work into an album in my life. For the world to get to hear some of those songs that were born out of these incredibly vulnerable, intense, private conversations, and what it has turned into here now, has been amazing.”

While they’d started working on the album before the pandemic, a large portion of it was completed later in 2020 after the outbreak of the pandemic.

“We really start getting into heavy songwriting and lyrical material in fall/winter of 2020,” he said. “And this is coming off of the era when people are making their quarantine album, their songs with pandemic in the title, when it was really a buzzword that musicians were putting in songs.”

“But with her, we knew that this is going to be a long-game thing,” he continued. “We knew people would probably be sick of hearing about COVID whenever this album would come out in 2021, 2022. But again, we knew that, with Lizzo especially, you can’t just pretend the hard times didn’t happen. She’d say this over and over: ‘I’m an artist, I have to reflect the times.’ So we would always make sure, at every turn, that we were going to reflect the times. We can’t do that in the last few years without talking about what’s been going on.”

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Lizzo is going on tour in support of ‘Special’

Since Special‘s release, Lizzo has released merchandise including vinyl and CD copies of the album and even CD singles of “About Damn Time.”

Lizzo is embarking on her Special Tour in September 2022 with hit rapper Latto joining as special guest.