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Music

A night at the church of Lizzo, pop music’s patron saint of self-care

Lizzo
Lizzo performs during the first of three sold-out shows at the Hollywood Palladium on Friday.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

It’s entirely possible that one could launch themself straight to the moon entirely fueled by the bursts of positivity Lizzo spread over a sold-out crowd at the Hollywood Palladium on Friday night.

The 31-year-old Houston-born, Minneapolis-based rapper-singer and classically trained flutist named Melissa “Lizzo” Jefferson is pop music’s patron saint of self-care; a woman whose sole mission is delivering messages of self-love, confidence and living your absolute best life.

Lizzo is the rare feel-good story in the music business: Six years after her first album, steadily winning over audiences with empowering, musically dexterous records celebrating her black skin and ample curves, she has finally cracked the zeitgeist.

Hillary Clinton has quoted her lyrics, Barack Obama plugged her on his summer playlist and Beyoncé made it a point to catch her live show.

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And with over 1 billion streams, a record-breaking No. 1 hit in “Truth Hurts” and a peppy, crowd-pleasing LP “Cuz I Love You,” she’s sure to find herself on multiple year-end lists and a major contender for the upcoming Grammys, including a lock for a best new artist nod.

Over 90 minutes at the Hollywood Palladium on Friday — the first of three nights she’s playing to meet demand — Lizzo showed why she’s having quite possibly the most transcendent breakout of 2019.

The church of Lizzo is one of blissful liberation and self-care. She’s a sweat-soaked preacher delivering her message through witty, razor-sharp testimonies.

It’s why she starts her show standing upon an actual pulpit (wrapped in gold and affixed with glowing strobe lights), cloaked in a cropped metallic choir robe. “Can I take you higher? This is a safe space,” she said before diving into her rollicking, funky romp “Worship” — a brassy call for a lover to get on their knees and worship her “patiently, quietly, faithfully” that was nearly drowned out by 5,000 fans chanting the lyrics back to her.

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Much of the night went like this, Lizzo stretching out soul ballads like “Cuz I Love You” and “Jerome” into hymnals with a raw-throated wail that sent her eyes bulging out of her head and doling out bits of positive preaching to a devoted congregation answering back with the occasional “yass, queen” and “amen” (although Lizzo welcomes all who want to hear her word, she spent the evening making sure the “big girls” and “gay boys” were especially listening).

Charm aside, Lizzo’s greatest strength as a performer is her ability to stretch herself across a spectrum of genres.

Her music is a pastiche of gospel-soaked soul, shimmering disco-pop, funk-rock inspired by fellow Minneapolitan Prince, Southern blues and Missy Elliott’s brand of body jolting rhymes. She ran through bluesy R&B (“Cry Baby”), disco-funk fusion (“Boys”), trap-influenced hip-hop (“Scuse Me”) and sticky dance records (“Tempo,” “Exactly How I Feel”) with her foot on the pedal the entire night.

With a voice as elastic as Lizzo’s, it would be nice to hear her with more than a DJ behind her, especially as her stages continue to get bigger. She has the prowess and the charisma to deserve the muscle and splendor of a full backing band.

More than that, though, she has what every pop star wants: a growing flock devoted entirely to cheering her on.


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