SZA’s new album, “SOS,” has sat at the top of the Billboard 200 for the sixth week in a row, and it does not look like it is going anywhere anytime soon.
33-year-old R&B artist Solána Imani Rowe, better known by her stage name SZA, dropped “SOS” on Dec. 9, 2022, five years after releasing her record-breaking fan-favorite debut studio album, “Ctrl.” At first listen, “SOS” may sound similar to “Ctrl,” but after listening to the album multiple times, listeners can appreciate the complexity of her beats, the meaningful lyrics behind them and the message of fiery independence she is trying to convey.
Just as life has its ups and downs, so does each song in “SOS.” SZA experiments with many different genres across the album’s tracks, from rock in “F2F,” to rap in “Smoking on my Ex Pack” to her typical R&B in a multitude of other songs.
The R&B artist said she drew on past periods of her life for inspiration in a Dec. 20 tweet.
“SOS is me singing about relationships from 6 years ago. Ctrl was about relationships from high school n college. Reflection is a part of growth. Reflection is good,” SZA wrote in the tweet.
This personal connection explains the depth of her lyrics and contextualizes the different emotions she conveys in each of the album’s tracks. Each track highlights a different feeling, but they all evoke a sense of loss or isolation.
In “Kill Bill,” which currently sits at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, SZA’s feelings are at a crossroads. In it, SZA goes back and forth between her love and hatred for her former lover — part of her still loves him, while the other cannot stand him.
A now-viral line of the song reads, “I might still kill my ex/I still love him though/Rather be in jail than alone.”
SZA reflects on how she thought her past relationships would help her grow as a person but realized that they just made her feel more isolated than ever.
The album cover depicts her sitting on a board in the middle of the ocean, lost at sea — not knowing where her emotions lie or what part of her life she should focus on next. In “Nobody Gets Me,” she sings wistfully about how isolated she feels after her breakup, because no one seems to understand her like her ex did.
However, not every track in the album conveys this sense of total loss. Despite the album expressing a general feeling of heartbreak and angst, a few songs combat this.
“Conceited” takes a different approach to her perspective on her relationship ending — it is more upbeat than the other songs in the album. She sings faster, with more of a sense of purpose, and the most recurring lyric in the song is “I’m betting on me.”
In addition to the deeper meaning of her lyrics, the album is sonically very catchy. The mix of R&B electric beats, mellow tone hints of Indie, bits of rap and her classic soulful vocals make the album as versatile as SZA herself as an artist — one could listen to these songs on a midnight drive, while working out or as background music for studying.
By writing about painful periods in her life, SZA exhibits admirable vulnerability, allowing her to form a deeper connection with her listeners. In addition, her songs take on problems many people deal with in their own relationships, making her songs relatable and her message easy to understand.
Despite it taking SZA five years to release another album, the wait was worth it. Each song has a unique take on joy, grief, love, heartbreak, boredom and excitement, making listeners appreciate the time and effort that went into making “SOS.”
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