Lizzo needed a defining anthem. She found one in “Juice.”
A 30-year-old singer, rapper, dancer and flutist, the artist born Melissa Jefferson has become a social media star in recent years, winning over audiences with her absurdist humor, outsize personality and messages of body positivity and black self-love. But as she moved from an underground figure to something more mainstream — her Atlantic Records full-length debut, “Cuz I Love You,” was released on Friday — Lizzo and her collaborators wanted to pack all of her joy and charm into a single three-minute musical package.
So one day in the studio with the producer Ricky Reed (Kesha, Halsey, Jason Derulo) and the songwriter Theron Thomas, who has written hits with Rihanna and Beyoncé, Lizzo demanded an undeniable smash. Reed pulled up an old demo he had written, with guitars reminiscent of Prince and David Bowie, and Lizzo and Thomas got straight to writing an infectious string of catchphrases, beginning with a playful declaration: “Mirror, mirror on the wall/don’t say it, ‘cause I know I’m cute.”
The track became “Juice,” a retro-funk explosion à la “Uptown Funk” that is also unmistakably Lizzo, with all of the pizazz and self-confidence that entails. The song’s gradual rise in popularity has included performances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” along with placements in the final season of “Broad City” and the trailer for “Long Shot,” starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. Its music video — which features Lizzo referencing an array of throwback pop-culture moments — has been viewed more than 8.5 million times on YouTube.
In the “Diary of a Song” episode above, Lizzo, Reed and Thomas discuss the making of the track — including a cherry-on-top cameo from Lizzo’s best friends singing backup vocals — and what it takes to write a song that feels modern, but could also get your grandmother dancing at a wedding.
“Diary of a Song” provides an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at how pop music is made today, using archival material — voice memos, demo versions, text messages, emails, interviews and more — to tell the story behind the track. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Joe Coscarelli is a culture reporter with a focus on pop music. His work seeks to pull back the curtain on how hit songs and emerging artists are discovered, made and marketed. He previously worked at New York magazine and The Village Voice. @joecoscarelli
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