I'd heard Lizzo interviewed on NPR a few months ago. Issues of gender, body image, and self confidence where all topics of her discussion. She is a larger woman who both figuratively and literally bares all on her recent album. All of this was interesting, but my attention wasn't thoroughly captured until I attended a wedding recently. Her music showed up on the rental car radio, in the club during a pre-wedding party, and even on the dance floor at the reception. She's a unique person with equally unique music, and I'm impressed.
The music starts with toe-tapping beats but where it stands apart is in Lizzo's willingness to push the limits of convention, which she does in three ways. First, in subject matter, the meaning in her lyrics are bold, critical of social norms, and unapologetic.
Second, she pushed the boundaries of what lyrics will fit in the song. Most of the time, singers strive to stay on beat with their music, but sometimes singers have too much to say to be limited this way. My all-time favorite band, Steely Dan operated this way. If there were too many words for a particular line of music, but they were profound, well they went ahead and jammed them in. Lizzo operates this way, and I love it. It grabs the listeners attention. When you hear her trample over her own beat, you have to ask what happened and pay closer attention to what she has to say.
Finally, Lizzo pushes the limits of her own voice. Now I'm sure she has a lovely singing voice when that is her aim, but on what I've heard of her music she often goes higher and lower than her range, cracking and losing pitch along the way. She holds notes she can't sustain and just keeps going. It gives power to her music, as if to say, yes this could be all fine and polished without so much as a blemish in the vocal execution, but it's too powerful and too relevant to worry about all that.
Lizzo won't be contained or held back by convention.