SZA’s ‘SOS’ Breakdown
After a five-year hiatus, SZA returns with her second studio album.
Twenty-three tracks of raw thoughts, emotions and unfulfilled desires, is what SZA blesses us with on her long awaited album “SOS.”
The 33-year old exudes confidence but simultaneously explains how her vulnerability has backfired in past relationships. As she taps in with these conflicting feelings, she shows off a range in musicality from rap, rock, indie and all the way back to R&B, proving that her talent will always exceed our expectations.
There’s nothing that could have prepared me for her intro and self title song “SOS.” For nearly two minutes SZA spits about how she's deserving of her flowers made me appreciate her even more for knowing her worth. Musical producer, Jay Versace, executed the track perfectly by layering a familiar Drake sample under her assertive tone in a higher octave to compliment her voice. The triumphant choir background vocals pair well with her message as it's a monologue to those who might be “heavily influenced” by her but truly forge her style.
Featured artists can either enhance, over power or ruin an album. It's clear she was particular about the creatives she selected on this project as they are flexible and accommodate her aesthetic. She reunited with melodic rapper Travis Scott on “Open Arms” for a somber ballad which is surprising but pleasing to hear since he’s generally recognized for dominating the trap scene. Phoebe Bridgers was also a refreshing vocalist to see who made the cut on the album. Her indie softcore influences resonated on the track “Ghost in the Machine” with airy keys and wispy harmonies elevating SZA’s traditional sound. I admire her for taking a leap trying new things as an artist. I wouldn’t be shocked if she felt a little hesitant reeling in new music since her stans held onto “Ctrl” for half a decade and most likely expected something similar. Her growth was for sure worth the wait.
What I love most about this album is her acknowledgement of living in delusion.
In her song “Blind,” she simply ignores all of the signs of the toxic tendencies she experiences with her ex-partner. Her flow on the compelling ballad portrays every thought racing her mind and hearing them contradict each other, feels like we’re making her next risky decision with her. In the first verse she plays victim to the situation her sex life got her in. She then switches up in the second verse by asking for dysfunction from her lover because of the chaos she craves, and admits to liking the unnecessary violence it creates. She claims to be so embarrassed knowing that these actions are regrettable and still chooses to look the other way. Although she realizes the love she seeks within her partner can’t be reciprocated wholeheartedly, she acts out creating a never ending cycle of despair.
I found it odd how people were saying she is “too insecure” on this album. Wanting validation from your significant other is natural and her speaking on it is relatable especially right now. We live in a time period where hook-up culture has either desensitized us from reciprocating affection because our attention spans have reduced or guided us to heartbreak. Her fans need to remember that just because she effortlessly flaunts her sex-appeal, does not mean she can’t vent about heartache.
“SOS” is a journey I wish I could experience for the first time again.
SZA remains to generate anthems that provide comfort for anyone experiencing hurt, loss and lust. I just hope she doesn't derail from dropping music consistently again anytime soon.