What is perhaps the most intriguing thing about SZA is her reluctance to step into the spotlight. Similar to another New Jersey-raised singer, she’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent whose output isn’t as frequent as the public would like because she possesses a unique level of creativity that only a few are able to comprehend. More than five years after her classic debut, this infamously transparent songstress returns to make a statement with the release of SOS.
For many, 2017’s CTRL was much more than just an album. Its introspective themes resonated with women, and SZA’s uncanny songwriting and brilliant honesty cemented her place as one of the most promising entertainers of this era. Since then, she has appeared on several chart-topping singles, leaving fans with just one consistent question: “When will she release another solo project?” The years of anticipation, talks of retirement, amazing performances, etc., brings us to December 9, 2022, a day that may come to be described as one of the most important dates in R&B history.
Throughout SOS, we hear an artist supremely confident in her abilities, while at the same time struggling with the truth of her flaws and imperfections. The album’s cover – which is inspired by a 1997 photograph of Princess Diana, taken just days before her tragic passing – is symbolic of life’s isolating effects, especially for a Black woman of notable fame. For a little over an hour, SZA takes listeners on a journey through the bevy of emotions that come with life, love, and intimacy.
The album begins with its title track, where she addresses the naysayers that emerged during her five-year hiatus. Lyrics like “This ain’t no warning shot, in case you hoes forgot,” let’s everyone know that she fully understands her stature in the music industry, and that her spot will always be her spot. The intro is followed by “Kill Bill,” a song expressing the pain of seeing your ex with someone else, and just how far she would go in order to escape from it. “I’d rather be in hell than be alone,” the singer says in its closing stanza.
SZA’s unique perspective on female sexuality is what sets her apart from many of her contemporaries. “Seek & Destroy,” “Low” (ft. Travis Scott), and “I Hate U,” are liberating, to say the least, while “Snooze” and “Nobody Gets Me” speaks to the sometimes-restrictive feeling that you get when you’re in love, particularly when it isn’t the healthiest situation.
Although the braggadocio exuded on “SOS,” “Conceited” and the ODB-assisted “Forgiveless” are testaments to how comfortable this Grammy Award-winner is in her skin, it’s the moments of inadequacy that make for the most provocative points on this album. On “Nobody Gets Me,” SZA sings about holding on because she feels that only one person will ever truly understand her, and the cuts “Special” and “Far” go in detail about the deteriorating effects of a toxic relationship, and how someone that you love can lower your self-esteem, and change the way you feel about yourself.
The 23-track SOS is a phenomenal album, and could turn out to be SZA’s best body of work. While her future as an artist still remains uncertain, her legacy in the genre of R&B in something that will never be denied. In addition to SOS, this week also includes music from Kamaiyah, Stalley, Icewear Vezzo, and more.
Take a look at our weekly roundup of new releases below.