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Even cynics can't resist Lizzo's power

Lizzo will make a fan out of you.

Lizzo will make a fan out of you.

Lizzo is a hot commodity. So hot, in fact, that obtaining the interviews necessary to compose this article turned into a task so arduous and pregnant with delays and false starts, it was almost lost to history.

You can probably guess what happened next. Miraculously, after a brief period of editorial fisticuffs, the project was resuscitated in the 11th hour when an indifferent PR man and a dogged writer conspired to make a telephone interview happen just in the nick of press time. The fact you're reading this at all is a testament to some behind-the-scenes, Spotlight-level journalistic heroism.

But enough inside baseball: We finally got Lizzo on the line. The budding star — who celebrates her new album, Big Grrrl Small World, Saturday at First Avenue — is the latest local to make the jump into the Twin Cities' vaunted class of flagship treasures.

It's a space she now shares with the likes of Doomtree, Poliça, Passive Aggressiveness, and Fierce Loyalty to Regional Supremacy in the Face of Objective Reason.

This final item of local lore is mentioned somewhat in jest, but there is a feedback loop that can follow ascension to the top of the artistic food chain in the City of Lakes and Sincere Circle Jerks.

In a town where the musical acts selected to be our national representatives are treated with the kind of reverence usually reserved for sports superstars and biblical martyrs, it can be difficult to trust the solipsistic processes that yield our heroes supreme.

Before finally succumbing to (the properly rated, magnificent) talents of Lizzo, I'll admit that I stood at the gates of bangers with a head full of skepticism. Not because of the wares the Houston-raised, Minneapolis-based rapper was peddling, which were ignored until the levy finally burst.

No, it was a reaction to the familiar experience of getting burned by local press mechanisms and buzz generators promising gold but instead turning over mediocrity cradled in hyperbolic adjectives.

Enlightenment was found during Lizzo's set at the Totally Gross National Product showcase at Icehouse last fall. It was a performance that put to bed a lifetime of petty, pretentious, cynical misgivings.

The music was innovative, and made it impossible to stand by idly in a cool-guy pose. The bars were fire; the choreography was insatiable. Above all else, though, the performance captured something that often eludes the bedrock of our hip-hop community: It was fun.

There's a magnetism and charisma that's innate and obvious in the Minneapolis transplant. That part is natural and exceptional, but it's not what sets Lizzo apart from her peers. What gives her an edge and sky's-the-limit potential is the maniacal, even Jordan-esque engine that propels her.

"I feel focused," Lizzo says of her grind when finally reached in Los Angeles via FaceTime. "[And that's] great because for a long time, I didn't know what the hell I was doing."

Grace Holden, one of Lizzo's dancers — known by fans as Big GRRRLs — describes keeping up with Lizzo.

"She doesn't stop. She's always going, and when she's in town she finds time to rehearse with us and to work even more. Lizzo's a professional. She learns all the choreography and she's making new music. Then there are new songs and more workshops are set up for us to learn new choreography. It's just rolling. It keeps coming."

In speaking with Lizzo, the scope of her schedule came into focus. There is no down time. She hasn't carved out a second to bask in the glow of December's Big GRRRL Small World and the international adulation that came with it. The month spent in California was all business, spent writing and recording for the next Lizzo record.

When asked how she'll spend the time leading up to Saturday's show, the real-life Melissa Jefferson reports it's naturally another grueling week of punching the clock at the funhouse.

The days will be spent in long sessions with choreographers and her dancers learning new routines for the upcoming tour. Lizzo says it's the only element she's nervous about, though she sounds pretty breezy on the subject as she spoons out the inside of an avocado.

As far as the upcoming gig at First Ave is concerned, the show is more than a victory lap. For Lizzo, 27, it's highly symbolic; it's her first solo headlining gig at Minneapolis' iconic club, the kind of show to which all local musicians aspire.

"It means a lot," she says, citing D'Angelo and Sleater-Kinney as recent First Ave performers who have inspired her. "This is definitely going to be a landmark for me. I'm excited to do the things I've seen other people do in that room."

What comes after the tour isn't revealed completely in our conversation. There will be more gigs, including high-profile dates like her recently announced slot at Bonnaroo. There will be more writing, more dances to learn.

There'll be another record pieced together from the L.A. sessions and future dates. More ink will be spilled by journalists — even the most begrudging ones — trying to figure out how to describe her allure. For insight on being Lizzo, she offered the following:

"Change is something that's really fluid. I don't know what started it. I feel so confident in my body and in my voice. I'm so happy and fulfilled in all of my friendships and relationships with my family. I'm excited. I just feel like an evolution has happened, not just a change."

Now she's in the zone. She says there's something in the air.

That means Lizzo's reign will continue. Her star will only shine brighter and reach more people. If there's a message here for any remaining impossibly hip holdouts, it's this: Stop worrying about the hype and learn to love Lizzo. You'll be better for it.

Lizzo
With: Sophia Eris
When: 9 p.m. Sat., Feb. 6 
Where: First Avenue
Tickets: Sold out; more info here