“Last year, I thought I would lose it/Reading shit on the internet,” sings Lizzo over bassy synths on “Rumors”, her first single release since 2019’s hit record Cuz I Love You. Delivered by any other musician – Billie Eilish, say, whose recent record was all about dealing with intense media scrutiny – the line might sound sombre. But this is fun-loving Lizzo – adored for her danceable, body-positive music and down-to-earth nature – and we know she’s about to flip the tone. “My smoothie cleanse and my diet,” she goes on, her long acrylic nails curling into balled-up fists as she faux-weeps, her voice warbling, before she becomes deadly serious: “No, I ain’t fucked Drake yet.”
“Rumors”, the video showing the Houston-raised Lizzo and featured artist Cardi B as Greco-Roman Olympian figures – all gold dresses and golder jewellery, cavorting atop Ionic columns – takes aim at the ways in which the artists’ appearance and actions are scrutinised by the public and the media. “Spendin’ all your time tryna break a woman down/Realer shit is goin’ on baby, take a look around,” Lizzo sings. On the chorus, an exuberant, horn-filled bop, she declares she is “sick of rumours”, and nods to Taylor Swift’s effervescent “Shake It Off”: “But haters do what they do.”
The song is brash and ballsy, feel-good and unrelentingly fun. Cardi B sits on a throne, apparently reading a scroll, as she smirks: “All the rumours are true, yeah/Fake ass, fake boobs, yeah.” She is enjoying being able to play it cool, rather than having to make up excuses. She acknowledges her past antics, how she used to “pop off when they pop shit”, but she’s more composed now (“I’m calmed down and I’m locked in”), and, professionally, still just as successful. There is a freedom that comes with relinquishing control of one’s public perception. All Cardi has to do is sit back and watch.
With Cuz I Love You, Lizzo become the most-nominated artist at the 2020 Grammy Awards. The album, Lizzo’s third, brought the singer into the mainstream after years of working on the margins of showbusiness. With “Rumors”, she acknowledges that it’s tough being in the limelight. The track holds tight to the features that have become her trademarks: a line about body positivity; use of the word “bitch” seemingly only to punctuate; riffs suitable for class-A twerking. All that’s missing is a flute break.
[see also: Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever details the darker side of fame]