Rolling Stone Greatest Songs

Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs: Lizzo, ‘Truth Hurts’ (#497)

Cheeky, sly, and irrepressible, Melissa Jefferson, a.k.a. Lizzo, wastes no time in getting right to it in ‘Truth Hurts’:

Why men great ’til they gotta be great?

We’d be hard pressed indeed to find a grown woman from a western-style democracy who hasn’t pondered that very question at some length.  And where Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ allows no room for anyone who isn’t themselves an ultra-wealthy celebrity named Kanye, the experience Lizzo speaks to here is near-universal.  Granted, the specific details are hers — probably not a lot of women have a new thing going with a Minnesota Viking — but the general circumstances?  Picking oneself up and dusting oneself off following yet another disappointing affair with the kind of disappointing, dishonest asshole your friends all warned you about?  What woman hasn’t experienced some version of that?

There’s a strong element of personal empowerment that runs through Lizzo’s work, as if she’s been radicalized by a lifetime’s worth of exposure to shitty men and petty nonsense designed to diminish her spirit.  The result is a one-woman jihad against self-defeating weakness and letting the bastards get her down.

While her songs are unmistakably feminine in their viewpoint, any overlap with feminism in its formal or political sense is probably incidental; the emphasis on freedom here is personal and / or tribal.  Free your mind and your ass will follow.  Taken as a whole, Lizzo’s songs include a narrative in which ideas about physical beauty and desirability aren’t so much rejected as they’re reevaluated and reassigned (and occasionally weaponized).  Her lyrics abound with references to hair and nails, salons and shampoos, fresh photos with bomb lighting.

‘Truth Hurts’, like all Lizzo’s work, draws upon an inexhaustible well of confidence…though it’s interesting that as listeners, we’re not privy to the process of gaining that confidence.  Instead, we’re presented with a finished product; it’s an answer, not a question.

Michael Strum: “‘I think Lizzo is good for America, and for rap, and for music, and for women (particularly girls) and — let’s be real — for humanity. She’s unapologetically her, and strong, and I love that, particularly as a father to a girl. She says things like ‘This is me, and it’s not going to change,’ and ‘I’ve never been ‘sample size.’ I’ll never be ‘sample size’ … And I ain’t ‘plus sized’ I’m MY SIZE’ and ‘Boss up and change your life.’ That’s the best word for Lizzo: ‘Boss.’ And we see that on ‘Truth Hurts’: good wordplay and Lizzo showcasing her wide-ranging vocal talent. Boss. The mix is fun, and representative of her diverse skillset and background, rapper to singer to flutist. Boss. Detroit to Minnesota by way of Houston. Boss. ‘Truth Hurts’ gives us Lizzo the musician, rapper, artist, role model, and Boss.”

Rolling Stone: “That song is my life and its words are my truth,” Lizzo wrote at the time. She had to tack on a writing credit to British singer Mina Lioness, who had tweeted its iconic line “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch,” but the power of this gale-force breakup banger was pure Lizzo, uproariously swaggering and endearingly soulful. “Truth Hurts” was originally released in 2017, but the song got a big boost two years later, when Gina Rodriguez day-drunkenly sang it in the Netflix show Someone Great, and it became Lizzo’s signature hit.