Lizzo Song “Grrrls” Called Out For Including Slur In Lyrics

by Anastasia Deripaska

For an album called “Special”, Lizzo’s lyrics are surprisingly out-of-touch with disabled listeners.

Pop superstar Lizzo has been making headlines after her new single “GRRRLS” released on June 10th to widespread outrage. The song’s lyrics included the word “spaz” (commonly called the “S-word” in disabled circles), a word that has been used as a slur against disabled people.

Fans took to social media accusing Lizzo of being ableist, meaning her lyrics reflected harmful prejudices against disabled people.

Now faced with the backlash, Lizzo has announced the song will be rereleased with updated lyrics, replacing sp–z.

While Lizzo should be applauded for taking quick and inclusive action, how did this problem come about in the first place, and how did fans convince the singer to change her song?

Why Fans Were Upset

The single “GRRRLS” was the second song released as part of the lead-up to Lizzo’s upcoming album “Special”.

The original release of the song included the lyrics: “Hold my bag/ Do you see this sh–t?/ I'm a sp–z/ I'm about to knock somebody out”.

Fans immediately responded negatively to the lyrics. One such fan named Hannah Diviney, a disability advocate with cerebral palsy, called Lizzo out on Twitter: “your new song makes me pretty angry + sad. ‘Spaz’ doesn’t mean freaked out or crazy. It’s an ableist slur.”

While there are several types of cerebral palsy, the dyskinetic movements associated with spastic cerebral palsy are often mocked, and the name of the disorder gave rise to the word sp–z as an insult.

Another fan, Callum Stephen, said he observed, “several comments alluding to ‘sp@z’ being an insult in the UK, but not the US.”

Sp–z is used more casually in the US to describe clumsy or angry behavior, though at its roots it is still derived from “spastic” in medical terminology.

Stephen followed up by saying, “Lizzo’s music receives heavy promotion in the UK, so it should at least be sensitive to our issues.”

What Should Lizzo Do?

Many fans asked for Lizzo to change the lyrics. The singer is known for her progressiveness and feminist ventures, such as launching the inclusive women’s shapewear brand Yitty.

Knowing that Lizzo is often sensitive to social issues, fans were very polite when asking for a lyric change. 

Stephen hoped the singer could learn from her mistake, saying, “I’d love it if Lizzo apologised and use [sic] her platform to raise awareness of the issues disabled people face.”

After the controversy raged for a few days, Lizzo announced via Twitter that she was going to change the lyrics to remove the slur. 

“Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language [...] 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.”

The whole affair ended quite civilly as fans and advocates expressed delight both over the change and how open-minded Lizzo was about the problem. With the incident now finished, hype for “Special” is once again building ahead of its anticipated release in July.