Lizzo Discusses 'Grrrls' Lyric Controversy: 'I Wanted to Be a Leader in What We Should Be Doing as a Culture'

The singer changed a line in her song after facing backlash for a lyric that some listeners called an 'ableist slur.'

Lizzo is opening up about her recent lyric controversy and sharing why she chose the path least traveled. On Friday, the day her new album, Special, was released, Lizzo made an appearance on The Breakfast Club, where she discussed her blossoming relationship, new music, and the recent backlash she faced after the release of her buzzy new single, "Grrrls." 

Initial reviews of the song were warm and receptive of the track's uplifting lyrics and vibe, but shortly after its release, fans took to social media to call out the singer for her use of the word "sp*z" in the song's opening verse, calling it a derogatory term.

"Hold my bag, b***h/ Hold my bag/ Do you see this s**t?/ I’m a sp*z/ I’m about to knock somebody out/ Yo, where my best friend?/ She the only one I know to talk me off the deep end," Lizzo sang in the original version of the song.

Breakfast Club host Charlamagne tha God told Lizzo he was "mad" at her for changing the lyrics to suit fans' demands. "Words matter," he said, rattling off the common American definition of the word. 

"It's a nuanced conversation," Lizzo responded. "For me, everybody is talking about it now, there are think pieces everywhere. I thought, what's the best thing I can do? I can say my opinion on it and just add to everyone's opinion or I can do something about it."

She added, "And really, I wanted to be a leader in what we should be doing as a culture, making this world a better place. If they could do that for Black people, that would be amazing. When we call things out out, if they could make changes that quickly for us -- if I could do it that quickly, I did it on a Sunday night and it was fixed by Monday. They could do that for us when we call out injustices for us. So I wanted to be a leader in that."

While Charlamagne protested that Lizzo used the term in the "proper context," co-host Angela Yee pointed out that the singer was providing an example for how easily it is to course-correct when one's actions hurt people.

"I think it was a great example saying, "People have a problem with this, it's not a big deal for me to change this one word," Yee pointed out. "Sometimes you can get defensive and it turns into a whole way bigger issue." 

Lizzo agreed, and also noted that intentions matter because she wasn't using the word as a slur. "I didn't use it as a slur and I think the backlash of 'you've lost a fan,' is unnecessary when someone's intentions wasn't negative or harmful," she added.

But, as the star noted, words "can be used as slurs." And despite Charlamagne's insistence that the word's definition keeps it from being a slur, Lizzo insisted that she didn't regret the consuming effort it took to change the lyrics.

Twitter users explained that disabilities such as cerebral palsy are classified as "Spastic Diplegia," where spasticity refers to unending painful tightness in one's legs.

One fan wrote, "Hey @lizzo please remove the word 'sp*z' from your new song because it’s a slur and really offensive to the disabled community,” signing off with, "From a disappointed fan."

Lizzo responded to the backlash in a post shared to Instagram, noting that she not only changed the lyric, but that she "never" wants to promote derogatory language in her music.

"It's been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my song 'GRRRLS.' Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat black woman in America, I've had hurtful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally.)," the "Good as Hell" singer stated on Instagram before revealing that a new version of "Grrrls" has been released.

She continued, "I'm proud to say there's a new version of 'GRRRLS' with a lyric change. This is a result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist I'm dedicated to being a part of the change I've been waiting to see in the world. Xoxo, Lizzo."

Lizzo has a lot to celebrate beyond her album release. The 34-year-old's dance competition show, Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, scored six Emmy nominations on Tuesday morning.

The Prime Video series earned nods in some major categories for reality TV, including Outstanding Competition Program, Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program, Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program, Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program, Outstanding Picture Editing for a Structured Reality or Competition Program and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program.

The nods are Lizzo's first-ever nominations and if the singer nabs the award for Outstanding Competition Program, she would be ending RuPaul's Drag Race's four-year winning streak. The series earned its sixth consecutive nomination this year.

Lizzo took to social media to celebrate the Emmys announcement, posting a gallery of photos and a video of her dancing with the contestants of Watch Out for the Big Grrrls. 

"WATCH OUT FOR THE BIG GRRRLS IS EMMY NOMINATED🥹my grrrls🥹," she captioned the slideshow. "we didn’t do this for awards, we did this for ourselves. For the lives we touched making this… To shake up the industry.. and show the world how BEAUTIFUL AND TALENTED WE AREEEEE! BIG GRRRLS ARE BOOKED, BLESSED AND BUSY 💅🏾💅🏾💅🏾 YOU BETTA WATCH OUT! Thank you @televisionacad we’ll be there with bells on!"

Watch Lizzo's full interview below.