Entertainment Music Lizzo is not the first diva to come crawling...

Lizzo is not the first diva to come crawling back

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On March 30, Lizzo posted online: “I’ve started to feel like the world doesn’t want me in it… I QUIT.”

On Wednesday, she released a video on Instagram saying that she didn’t mean it after all. “When I say I quit, I mean I quit giving any negative energy attention,” she said.

Others in Lizzo’s generation to have made similar announcements and about-turns via social media include Justin Bieber, the former teenage pop sensation.

In December 2013, Bieber, then a 19-year-old teenage pop sensation, revealed: “I’m actually retiring, man… I think I’m probably gonna quit music.” His manager soon retracted this tomfoolery.

In 2019, Nicki Minaj, the 41-year-old rapper who has been releasing music since 2004, announced on Twitter: “I’ve decided to retire & have my family. I know you guys are happy now,” a reference to the ubiquitous “haters”.

Nicki Minaj performs at Madison Square Garden, New York, on March 30 2024

The response by Doja Cat, another American rapper, to over-familiar fans in 2022 was: “Everything is dead to me, music is dead.” A week after changing her Twitter name to “i quit”, the singer was performing again. A child of social media, she explained melancholically, “I’ve backed away from it… Unless I’m lonely or alone, and then I go on Twitter and f—ing fire off tweets for two hours straight.”

Like Minaj and Doja Cat, Lizzo is no doubt traumatised by the extremes of the modern music industry. It’s not so much that they should have to endure online “negativity”, but that they don’t appear to recognise how their participation is baked into celebrity in the digital age.

Doja Cat at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards

On the other hand, Mariah Carey, perhaps a diva without equal, said in 2014 that she will never retire from music.

But contrasting the length of faux retirements gone by with those taking place via social media makes the pre-social media age look more like the Cretaceous period than the 1970. It took 14 years for the Eagles to reform after breaking up in 1980, compared with five days for Lizzo to “unquit”.

The gap between Cat Stevens’s retirement and his return in 2006 was a noble 28 years. And a bored David Bowie at least had the class to kill off Ziggy Stardust.

David Bowie in 1973 during the Ziggy Stardust tour

Barbra Streisand spent long periods without performing due to stage fright and officially retired only last year. She is a classic diva, but sure enough of her own worth that she had no need of a weaponised public tantrum. The latter years of Sinatra’s life were better known for the sheer number of retirements and subsequent retractions than for his singing.

Digital quitting takes being a diva to self-defeating extremes. Lizzo, like many others, appears addicted to sympathy.

As with Sinatra, nobody really believes these artists are gone for good when they quit, but their digital platforms demand fake finality and the stars demand fake horror. Lizzo is not entirely correct when she says: “I didn’t sign up for this.”

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