Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Lizzo ft. Missy Elliott – Tempo

I suppose this would be an Allegretto…


Alex Clifton: This is a dream combination — not sure how these two hadn’t worked together before. I now judge high-energy songs on whether or not they’d be good to run to (weird metric but it’s been working so far) and the beat on “Tempo” is a winner — easy to keep pace to, easy to dance to, easy to get stuck in your head. I’m also delighted that we have a song with the lyric “thick thighs save lives.” I’m not as in love with this as I was with “Juice,” but Lizzo continues to sound good as hell.

Stephen Eisermann: At this point, I’m starting to wonder if Lizzo will ever release an objectively bad song; her track record is pretty flawless. I first heard “Tempo” in the car while dancing at my sister’s wedding reception this past weekend. My sister has always been curvier, and it was a big concern for her on her wedding day, but she seemed as confident as I’d ever seen her Saturday — that is, until this song came on. Gone was the quiet confidence of my sister dancing politely to “Suavemente,” “El Sinaloense” and “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” and instead out came a whole new Liz, one who was twerking in the center of her dance floor while all of my Mexican Catholic family watched, shook, wondering what happened to the self-conscious girl of before. But that’s what Lizzo does, constantly. She takes a hot beat and empowers you, either with some feel-good rap or, as is the case here, some good provocation. Even if Missy’s verse feels incomplete, it doesn’t matter, because Lizzo came to play and it’s hard to hate on confidence that sounds, feels, and looks this good. 

Katherine St Asaph: I don’t dance, and any confidence boost the lyrics might provide slams fatally against the fact that the external world views my body as a collection of misshapen, unsightly, useless parts, an awareness I can’t just turn off. (Which is the case for every song like this.) This song isn’t for me. It doesn’t help that the “When Doves Cry” guitar squall and Missy’s verse, where she turns into Chingy, completely overpower Lizzo’s subdued verses, which isn’t supposed to happen at all.

David Moore: The way Missy Elliott finds a little flicker of an idea and kindles it into a blaze of inspired silliness is always a thrill, but here it serves the counter-productive purpose of revealing the weakness of the rest of the track — Lizzo’s enthusiasm and ebullience can’t hold a candle to Missy’s lark.

Alfred Soto: It’s not twenty seconds old before “Tempo” blasts us with a distorted funk riff and the too long gone Missy Elliott. Nothing’s changed — “twerk skills are legendary” you knew. The chorus flickers, disappears. Chorus? Who needs one when Lizzo and Missy compete for sound effect attention?

Tobi Tella: This collaboration feels epic in the same way Christina Aguilera and Demi did, a symbolic torch passing from old-school to new-school from two similar artists. Lizzo has Missy’s classic swagger and flair, and the fact that she hasn’t lost any of her uniqueness as she becomes more and more mainstream is truly something to be commended. This bangs as hard as anything she’s ever released, and hopefully it becomes our generation’s body positivity anthem over some more questionable songs…

Katie Gill: I am always here for a bonafide ass shaking song, especially when it starts off with such an amazingly fun guitar riff like this one. The song is a beautiful cacophony and plays with sound in such a fun way, shifting from that minimalist beat to air horns & sirens, only to almost IMMEDIATELY drop back to the beat. And it’s clear that Missy is having a blast, making the most out of every ‘r’ she gets to roll. This song is pure unadulterated fun, an ass shaking song that knows exactly what it is and spends the right amount of time crafting everything to near perfection.

Iris Xie: Never thought I’d be so happy to hear “Truffle Butter” again, but I like “Tempo” and its version of that pinging synth more. “Tempo” takes that initial synth and layers it underneath with a heavy bass and a stop-start militaristic rhythm that makes the atmosphere simultaneously warm and domineering, and Lizzo’s command is ice cold, casual, and driven. She’s absolutely done with anyone telling her she can’t command the dance floor, and whoops, she now is! The verse that starts with “pitty-pat” and ends with “cat” winds up your dance moves and is pretty much twerk material. But Missy, that sweet deliverer of unflinching vision, sonically grabs the theme of the song and busts out all the ‘rrrs~’. But then she becomes very rude in the best way, and creates her own equivalent of a feature stage at 2:05 by changing it to a melted stadium band that sounds like the equivalent of lightning charging, with a brief drum clatter solo that sits with you long after it comes back to Lizzo dictating you to fuck it up to the tempo. But most importantly? The entire sentiment of the song is for any big girls (and anyone who identifies with those sentiments) who have ever felt really bad about moving on the dance floor — it was never your problem, it was always the boring-ass “slow songs.” And if that’s really not one of the best ways I’ve ever heard about taking up space in clubs that can be hostile to those who don’t have normative bodies, I don’t know what else is. 

Jonathan Bradley: Eight bars of Missy rhyming tongue trills is worth the admission, but this beat isn’t fucking anything up: the bass knocks but it doesn’t move. A modulating arpeggio sounds like a placeholder waiting for the finished edit. Lizzo matches the effort; her last appearance round here underserved her personality, but here it’s like she’s waiting for a reason to show up. What she does offer are some very rote verses and a chorus that isn’t sure it’s not a verse. It’s quite demure, even if you don’t start to think on how unrestrained Missy could be in her heyday.

Joshua Copperman: You know that old friend you had in high school that was into the same kind of music you were into? You said you’d stay in touch but grew apart from them because they were in a different, faster crowd than you? That’s Lizzo. Her BJ Burton “artsy-fartsy phase” spawned some stellar, aggressive music, but her major-label music is more fun and positive to somewhat mixed results. Oak (of “Pop &” fame) made a manic beat more reminiscent of those early days, but the actual content is light enough to make room for cat puns including “prrr me a glass.” It’s a shame she won’t go back to that earlier, more raw music when rappers like Cupcakke balance the high-concept antics with brutal honesty, but it’s clear that’s not what Lizzo feels like doing. That artsy phase increasingly feels like something she overcame than something she plans on revisiting. You occasionally hear back from that high school friend, but it’s clear that they were never going to be the person you wanted them to be. But it’s better to accept that because they’re happier and freer the way they are now. They should really put away the guitar, though.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Two overrated artists release a song that sounds exactly like you’d expect? I find the fireworks and beat switch fake-outs more exciting than the vocals. When the song ends, I’m left with… nothing, really. Lizzo’s recent singles have all been ordinary crowd pleasers, the sort of standard we should have for solid stock music. “Juice” felt like Facetuned Prince. “Tempo” is similarly watered down.

Nortey Dowuona: *incoherent babbling* Lizzo going in *MORE INCOHERENT SHRIEKING* Missy going in *GLEEFUL HOWLS OF TORMENT AND JOY* A small Afro was found on top of the MSNBC offices yesterday. *sounds of confusion and slight annoyance*

Reader average: [7.2] (5 votes)

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7 Responses to “Lizzo ft. Missy Elliott – Tempo”

  1. I love that anecdote Stephen!

  2. yas at Joshua dragging Lizzo, her material is so subpar for someone that is potentially great

  3. I like wine. I like watered down wine. I like Prince. I like watered down Prince.

  4. calling missy elliott overrated is boldly incorrect i guess

  5. Part of that comment was in how nothing she’s done this decade (be it her features or own singles) live up to what she achieved at her peak.

  6. ok the first rule of writing is that no one can read your mind

  7. That’s why I said ‘part’! I’m still of the opinion that her ’90s/2000s stuff isn’t quite the best but the dearth of quality in her output for the past 10 years leaves me even more comfortable with making such a statement (especially when people are presumably going into a collaboration like this expecting it to be great).