Hey, cutie. Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our March issue, so if you like what you see, you should probably snag a hard copy ASAP. Bye!
Let’s start with a little fun fact: Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell” songs hit 2019’s pop charts (aka became basically unavoidable and extremely $$$-making) multiple years after their initial releases. Shocking, right? But it fits: Record labels have been de-prioritizing Black female pop artists for the longest. These singers simply don’t get the buzz, radio plays, or other support they need to make the Top 40 when they should.
Or at all. Normani was supposed to be pop’s next It Girl after her 2019 megahit “Motivation.” But she hasn’t dropped a solo single since, and the twitterverse is full of theories that it’s because her label, Keep Cool/RCA Records, is pushing her to cater to the urban market. (Keep Cool did not respond to Cosmo’s request for comment.)
Placing Black women in this blatantly racist pigeonhole tells women like Lizzo that her
critically acclaimed album, ’Cuz I Love You, deserved to win Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammys but not Album of the Year. It tells women like Tinashe and Bree Runway that their type of pop will confuse the masses. It messages that they have to work twice as hard for a career as successful as Dua Lipa’s or Billie Eilish’s. (And yes, as with anything, there are exceptions—I see you, RiRi and Bey.)
If a talented Black woman isn’t making the music that many execs expect to hear from them—namely, hip-hop, rap, and R&B—it seems those execs avert their eyes and ears until the singer gets with the program. The artists who have managed to break through from “urban” to mainstream (think: Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat) still began their careers with exec-approved genres. It’s why “Bodak Yellow” needed to happen before Cardi could make a single with Maroon 5. This is, quite frankly, bullshit, since Black women have always had the range to do more than spit delightfully nasty, sex-charged lyrics on a beat.
So to the label heads running the show: Maybe if you gave ’em an up-front chance to excel in pop, you could *all* line your pockets with a couple million in extra cash. The next Lizzos are ready and waiting.