The time has finally arrived. After the incredible certified triple platinum album ‘Ctrl’ had many in a chokehold since 2017, SZA has finally released a new album after fans were dying for more. ‘SOS’ is a mighty 23-track album that became an overnight sensation; an ode to her authentic vulnerability and power, the singer has once again given the world what seems like an unlimited entry to her diary. If you’re ever caught up in your feelings about an ex or a lover, this album has the full emotional spectrum for you to get lost in. ‘SOS’ feels like an inner monologue of all the sides of SZA that are hurt, angry and striving for self-improvement. There is no obvious musical style to the record, thus mirroring the different sides of her as a person. It has listeners empathising with her and thus rooting for her to pick herself back up and keep pushing.
With the participation of famous writers and producers such as Benny Blanco, Travis Scott, Lizzo and Björk, the record is a stunning paradox of the chaos of what makes us weak and is outside of our control. SZA bends the traditions of music by seamlessly blending genres such as pop-punk, rap, indie and alternative RnB, showing her exponential growth as an artist over the past five years. Throughout the album, she unpacks complicated emotions about her relationships with the sincerity of listening to a friend. Her raw honesty and emotionally charged flow reflect her desire to find comfort in chaos and to constantly battle her ego, perfecting the art of authenticity.
The first half of the album is filled with songs about toxicity caused by relationships and exes, taking you down every avenue of moving on: jealousy, sadness, anger, numbness and getting with other people. In songs such as ‘Snooze’ and ‘Ghost in the Machine (ft. Phoebe Bridgers)’, SZA’s vocal prowess gives a voice to those who give in to being disillusioned by being in the moment with their lovers to get a temporary escape instead of addressing their issues. She shows it’s okay to feel everything and fall back into bad habits when you’re trying to improve yourself; growth is complex and nonlinear, and we are constantly learning.
SZA creates a sense of audacity and confidence in the person she is becoming by using rap lore and emotional vocal dynamics alongside genre-melting styles. Although there’s a lot of anger conveyed throughout ‘SOS’, heartache and craving for improvement course through the album. Acoustic, slower-tempo songs are peppered in the second half of the album, pairing SZA’s sultry voice with lessons on dealing with insecurity. In ‘Conceited’ and ‘Special’, she opens up about the torture of comparing herself to others and being scrutinized for her appearance. Whilst continuously pushing the strong, positive outlook that encompasses her and her music, she tastefully shows the significance of taking ownership of who you are and finding comfort within that.
Towards the end of the album, SZA shines with her hit ‘Good Days’, a soul-stirring mantra about finding beauty within the chaos of life, emphasising the value of youth and the importance of moving away from negativity. She’s an artist who doesn’t shy away from her flaws and articulates the emotions of those who struggle with identity and relationships. In the end, ‘SOS’ proves SZA’s pen has depth as she continuously establishes herself as a generational talent who compels you to sink deeper into your own mind.
Written by Raabia Haq