Behind The Hits is a column brought to you by Pop Crave to highlight the work that goes into crafting perfect pop music. The artists we report on daily depend on talented songwriters and producers to bring their sounds and personas to life. Without these talented musicians working behind the scenes, there would simply be no pop to crave.
Lizzo is having what’s arguably the biggest breakout moment of 2019. But at the surface level, the singer’s ascent in popularity appears relatively standard: a viral hit gains mainstream momentum, some big TV performances are booked, a debut album is released to commercial and critical success followed by a sold-out tour. If Lizzo has proven anything, though, it’s that she’s not your average bopstar.
Her first hit to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, “Truth Hurts” is actually a 2-year-old single that wasn’t originally intended to be on her debut album, ‘Cuz I Love You.’ Following a sudden surge in popularity after its placement in the Netflix film ‘Someone Great,’ the track was added to the deluxe version of the album and has since reached the top position of the Billboard Hot 100.
The triumph can be seen as a testament to the way the streaming era is breaking down clean-cut album cycles, but that is simply one half of this story. An album cut shooting up the charts after a rom-com placement is a long-shot by every measure, especially considering the fact that Netflix never released a proper soundtrack. There is clearly something about “Truth Hurts” and Lizzo that has resonated to a higher level. We talked with the team who worked on the song to learn more about how Lizzo’s defining moment of 2019 (so far) came to be.
Lizzo’s longtime producer, Ricky Reed, has worked on hits such as “Bad at Love” by Halsey, “HandClap” by Fitz and the Tantrums as well as “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo. The hitmaker says the creation of “Truth Hurts” all started with the track’s piano loop: “I had this piano loop that a brilliant producer and friend named Tele had sent me. I pulled it up in a writing session, and Lizzo and I were both drawn to how hard and simple it is.”
Reed has extensive credits with Lizzo dating back to the Coconut Oil EP in 2016. “We had the same booking agent, Matthew Morgan, one of the loveliest people in the game. He introduced us. My manager Larry Wade also saw Lizzo play Terminal 5 in NY and said I had to get into the studio with her. So she flew out, and on day one we made the song “Worship.” We knew it was on after that!”
Also involved with the track is singer/songwriter Jesse Saint John, a bop-maker behind tracks for Kim Petras, Camila Cabello and Britney Spears, among others. The track has yielded Jesse both his first top ten and number one credit, for which he says, “It feels sweet, I’m incredibly grateful and I just started.” Still getting acquainted with the track’s stratospheric ubiquity, he recalls the moment its success really hit him:
“I’ve had a bunch of those kinda-sorta hits, or fan favorites, or songs on big albums, so this really felt real to me when I got in the Uber a few weeks ago and heard it coming outta the radio! I was like wait ‘why did you put this on?’ [and] He was like ‘excuse me?’ I was like, ‘wait so this just came on?’ [and] He’s like ‘sir, I’m just playing the radio.”
Upon its original release in 2017, Reed always felt the song was tapped for something bigger. “When we made it, I thought this was the best song we had ever written together, and even remember telling friends ‘if this ain’t it, I don’t know what is.” But he admits that “it wasn’t the song’s time yet.”
“When it ended up popping off two years later I was totally surprised! Even though I always thought it was a monster.”
Flash forward to 2019 and Reed’s original premonition has proven true, adding yet another hit to his production discography. He says the track’s success is a “special feeling” considering how far back his working relationship with Lizzo goes. “It’s always magical, but helping to break Lizzo, who is such an important artist, is the greatest feeling!”
Lizzo’s next step is a bit less straightforward than the typical follow up to a massive, breakthrough single. Will she dip back and give a second push to one of Cuz I Love You’s equally hit-worthy first singles (“Tempo,” “Like a Girl,” “Soulmate”), or move forward with a new pick altogether? As for Jesse, he hopes Lizzo’s 2018 single, “Boys” will be the next to pop off, though his favorite track from the singer’s discography is still “Lingerie.”
Or perhaps the next single will be a track we’ve yet to hear: “We have a few songs just chilling in laptops that are bops,” Jesse tells Pop Crave.
Reed has always had a surefire confidence in Lizzo’s sensibilities as artist. “She knows her vision and sound inside and out and is 10 steps ahead of everyone. At this point I just try to put things in front of her that she isn’t getting from anyone else. Special bits of music that she might spin into something larger than life!”
Wherever Lizzo’s creative and professional journey leads post “Truth Hurts,” the charismatic performer is equipped with everything it takes to reach the mainstream stardom her fans have always believed the singer capable of. She’s continuously proven herself apt at crafting bops with an effortless cultural currency, but now has the platform to make the larger impact that she and her collaborators always knew she deserved.