Turn It Up And Be Mad: Why Angry Songs Make Us Feel Good

Lizzo performs "Truth Hurts" at the BET Awards on Sunday, June 23, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Way back in 1995, I was driving down a city street when a new song came on the radio, so raw and intense and different that I had to stop the car. The song was “You Oughta Know,” by Alanis Morissette, and it was a kiss-off anthem for the ages — channeling every negative feeling a 20-something could summon, capturing the pain and fury and vulnerability of a jilted lover with such depth that it took your breath away. Nothing has quite compared, until now.

Truth Hurts,” by Lizzo, is the next truly transcendent kiss-off song, and it’s even sweeter for having a moment while not actually being new. The song was released in 2017, but it broke through the pop-music consciousness this summer, boosted through a combination of the lip-synch app TikTok, a Netflix movie and a raucous performance at the BET Awards, in which Lizzo danced on top of a wedding cake and briefly played the flute. After the song finally made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it stands at No. 6 at this writing, the Grammys announced that “Truth Hurts” will be eligible for awards this year.

On Twitter, Lizzo, the Minneapolis-based singer/rapper who trained as a classical flutist and once was a protégé of Prince, celebrated the Grammy news in all-caps: “THIS IS MY TESTIMONY MY HARD WORK PAYIN OFF A REMINDER TO NEVER GIVE UP!” That’s true. It’s also a reminder of the power of an angry song to make you feel great.

Read the rest in WBUR’s Cognoscenti.

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