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Music

The Lizzo song that pays tribute to an R&B legend

‘Break Up Twice’ is one of the standout tracks from Special, the most recent album from American pop star Lizzo. Flying in the face of her signature high-energy dance-pop, ‘Break Up Twice’ is solemn, reserved, and more introspective than the gonzo souped-up songs that fill out most of Lizzo’s discography.

The track also has a number of unique credits, most notably the sole writing and producing credit for Mark Ronson on the album. ‘Break Up Twice’ bares more than a passing resemblance to Ronson’s throwback style employed on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, right down to the haunting staccato piano lines. Speaking of keyboards, soul legend Booker T. Jones is also given a songwriting credit on ‘Break Up Twice’, although I couldn’t hear exactly what his involvement was on the first listen.

One name is going to stand out more than any other in the credits for ‘Break Up Twice’: Lauryn Hill. The iconic and occasionally reclusive pop/soul/rap singer-songwriter is foundational to pretty much all music made after 2000 thanks to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her one and only studio album. Certainly Lizzo has taken a cue or two from the otherwise inimitable Ms. Hill, and on ‘Break Up Twice’, the connection becomes direct.

That’s because Lizzo interpolates Hill’s classic track ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ during the chorus of ‘Break Up Twice’. Hill’s “Boy, you know you better watch out / some girls, some girls are only about” is lifted for Lizzo’s “Boy you know better, you know you better / Boy you know you better watch out”. It’s not immediately obvious, but it definitely sticks in your head as being familiar once you’ve paid attention to it.

‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ was the culmination of everything working just right for Lauryn Hill. After The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 in the summer of 1998, ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ rose to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of that same year. No other artist had the same level of critical praise and commercial success as Hill did, and ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ was the moment that Hill’s crossroads of fame and creative expression were at their most simpatico.

To my ear, ‘Break Up Twice’ also has more than a little bit of Jay-Z’s ‘Run This Town’ in it, but I’m sure Lizzo doesn’t need to be bogged down by spreading around the songwriting credits even more than she already has. Songwriting credits have already been passed around to artists like The Beastie Boys, Malcolm McLaren, Coldplay, and Kool & the Gang for the various samples throughout Special, so another piece of the pie would be cutting things a bit thin.

Check out both ‘Break Up Twice’ and ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ down below.