Lizzo Explains Decision to Change ‘Grrrls’ Lyrics: ‘Using a Slur Is Unauthentic to Me’
The singer’s use of the ableist slur “sp-z” in the track’s original lyrics came up during her new cover story with Vanity Fair, in which she explained, “I’d never heard it used as a slur against disabled people, never ever. The music I make is in the business of feeling good and being authentic to me. Using a slur is unauthentic to me, but I did not know it was a slur.
“It’s a word I’ve heard a lot, especially in rap songs,” she continued, “and with my Black friends and in my Black circles: It means to go off, turn up. I used [it as a] verb, not as a noun or adjective. I used it in the way that it’s used in the Black community. The Internet brought it to my attention, but that wouldn’t [have been enough] to make me change something.”
However, another aspect of the controversy the “About Damn Time” singer didn’t expect was the backlash that came after she released a new version of the song, with one contingent of fans and media personalities like Charlamagne Tha God and Jerrod Carmichael arguing that artists should never bow to public pressure to change their art.
“Nina Simone changed lyrics — is she not an artist?” Lizzo countered. “Language changes generationally; Nina Simone said you cannot be an artist and not reflect the times. So am I not being an artist and reflecting the times and learning, listening to people, and making a conscious change in the way we treat language, and help people in the way we treat people in the future?”
Revisit Lizzo’s “Grrrls” below.