Lizzo knows a hit when she hears one.

In January, the artist’s fourth studio album, “Special,” was almost complete after three years of recording — but it was missing a lead single. “We knew we had a brilliant body of work but felt that we were missing one final song for the album,” says Brandon Davis, exec VP and co-head of pop A&R at Atlantic Records.

The singer had been working with her longtime collaborator Ricky Reed, as well as rising producer Blake Slatkin, on the project, but the two hitmakers had never been in the studio together. So when it came time to make the collection’s final song, Davis figured, why not organize a meeting of the minds? “Lizzo was like, ‘If you guys make something that sounds like a hit, I’ll come to the studio,’” Slatkin says. “So we made the track to ‘About Damn Time’ with the bass line and everything, and we FaceTimed her. She was like, ‘I’ll be there in 10 minutes.’”

For Lizzo, “About Damn Time” is autobiographical. “It’s a dance song with these super-emotional lyrics, where you can tell this person’s been through some shit,” Lizzo tells Variety in an interview about her new “Love, Lizzo” documentary. As the classically trained flutist expertly breaks down the song’s components (“There’s a lot of tension” in a chord that’s “somewhere between major and minor,” she explains), she pauses to consider the bigger picture.

“That’s the power of understanding music theory and understanding songwriting the way that I do,” she says. “It can’t all be happy and it can’t all be sad. You’ve got to give the listener a real human experience when they’re listening to the song, which is a mixture of pleasure, pain, joy, sadness, fear, release.”

The upbeat, disco-tinged anthem reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as Adult Top 40, Dance/Mix Show Airplay, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Mainstream Top 40 and Rhythmic Airplay. After its release in April, the song gained steady momentum on TikTok, thanks to a sassy dance made by creator Jaeden Gomez. “About Damn Time” captured the No. 1 spot in July.

“It was a great song to begin with, but I really believe that the TikTok moment and the choreography behind it going viral definitely helped take it over the top,” says Theron Thomas, who helped pen the track.

Slatkin agrees, saying the song was inspired by coming out of quarantine — in other words, it was about damn time to dance. “We wanted to make something that immediately transports you to the dance floor the second you hear it,” he says. “I love that it took off with a TikTok dance trend, because that’s exactly what we wanted — to see everyone happy and dancing.”

Slatkin cites Lizzo’s exacting standards as a big part of why “About Damn Time” performed so well. “It was four months of almost every single day being in the studio, getting that song perfect,” he says.

“The song is happy and positive and confident,” Reed adds, “but I think it also says, ‘Look, we’ve been going through it, and we’re still going through it.’ There’s a lot of challenges out here right now.”

Additional reporting by Angelique Jackson.