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Lizzo changes lyrics to new single after backlash

The lyrics to Lizzo’s new single ‘Grrrls’ included an ableist slur at the beginning of the first verse. Fans criticised the track’s use of the word and Lizzo has now replaced the lyric in response.

You’ve no doubt heard the popular single ‘About Damn Time’ from US singer Lizzo that’s making the rounds on TikTok at the moment.

She’s facing backlash this week, however, with the drop of her latest single ‘Grrrls’. Released on Friday 10th June, the first verse contains the lyric ‘do you see this shit? I’ma spazz’, which is a derogatory term for a certain form of cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia.

Her passionate fan base were quick to point out the offensive use of the term and requested a quick re-recording to fix the issue.

What was Lizzo’s response?

In an unusual response for top tier pop artists, Lizzo was quick to listen and rework the song, replacing the original lines with ‘hold me back’. This new version was released Monday night and is now the only version of the song available through official platforms.

She also included a lengthy statement on Instagram that explained the lyric swap, with an apology and recognition for her actions. ‘As an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world’, she wrote.

 

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A post shared by Lizzo (@lizzobeeating)

The subsequent audience reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with listeners thankful for just how immediate and receptive Lizzo was to the backlash.

There has been some debate over the use of the word, as it’s more widely understood to be a deliberately ableist term in the UK compared to the US. In hip-hop and pop music the word is often used to describe someone ‘going crazy’ or ‘wilding’ on a verse or performance.

It’s still insensitive of course, both to disabled people and those with mental health issues, but has been used in the past on American tracks with no repercussions. One such example is Paul McCartney, Rihanna, and Kanye West’s 2015 track ‘FourFiveSeconds’ where Kanye uses the term openly.

Still, the use of such a word from an artist who champions diversity and acceptance was initially disappointing before the change.

The correction indicates that Lizzo is engaged with her audience and public reputation, and is willing to show growth and cater to the sensitivities of her audience. Which is always a good thing, right?

 

Why is this a noteworthy turn of events?

The immediate course correction in this case demonstrates just how rapid and reactionary our listening experiences with new music has become. We are able to immediately dissect and share our takes on fresh material for the world to see, leaving new pop artists open to instantaneous scrutiny.

Equally, however, the use of the internet in the creation, promotion, and release of a new single or album gives artists the opportunity to change their work or ‘update’ it, similar to a tech product. We’ve seen artists experiment with this before; Kanye West’s frequent tinkering with ‘The Life Of Pablo’ in 2016 and his reworking of ‘Donda’ last year come to mind in particular.

In this sense, music has become far more malleable and fluid, able to be revised or reshaped in order to appease an audience.

Netflix has experimented with similar fiddling before, re-editing or shooting scenes in television shows that originally had errors. ‘Squid Game’ saw a certain business card number replaced after the original had fans harassing a poor man’s personal phone in September.

Lizzo’s replacement of an offensive lyric is undeniably a net positive that wouldn’t have been possible decades ago. The real questions start when we consider how much a knee-jerk audience reaction could affect a ‘final’ product over time.

Could our opinions on a TV show fundamentally change its edit post release in the future? If listeners decide a song isn’t particularly great on an album, could artists start to remove them or swap them for something new?

The internet age opens a window into an evolved, more intimate connection between artist and audience, one that shifts the power dynamic to allow for post-production change.

The ways in which this could alter the agency of creatives and their vision is yet to be properly understood, and we’ll need to wait a few more years to see how often and frequently final products are reworked to satisfy audiences.

For now, though, it’s good to see Lizzo’s fan base listened to and catered for in a meaningful way. Let’s hope her upcoming album keeps the lessons learned from the new single in mind, eh?

 

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