SZA - SOS Music Album Reviews

SZA - SOS Music Album Reviews
SZA’s long, ambitious, luxurious new album solidifies her position as a generational talent, an artist who translates her innermost feelings into indelible moments.

SZA has mastered the art of the inner monologue, transforming deeply personal observations into gilded songs that feel intimate, relatable, and untouchable, all at once. On her remarkable debut album, CTRL, she narrated these contradictions through warbled melodies that threw modern R&B and pop song structure out the window, letting her voice weave in, over, and through the beats, in a style that recalled the jazzy structure of Joni Mitchell and the technical prowess of Minnie Riperton. 

Not having a traditional formula, it turned out, was a winning tack: CTRL was certified triple platinum this August, reflecting both its continued relevance and fans’ salivatory desperation for a follow-up five years later. Of course, she’s been busy in the time since, having dropped 16 singles or collabs—including the Oscar-nominated Black Panther track “All the Stars,” with Kendrick Lamar—an album’s worth of material unto itself, plus a small handful of wildly acidic videos like “Good Days” and “Shirt.” She had the summer of 2021 in a chokehold with the record-breaking cellophane candy that is “Kiss Me More,” with Doja Cat. She’s filming a movie. She dropped some Crocs. She taught herself to play musical bowls. Like, damn. 

The cover of SOS depicts SZA, a former marine biology major, perched on a diving board surrounded by the deep blue ocean, her face pointed contemplatively at the sky. She was inspired by a 1997 photograph of Princess Diana on Mohamed Al Fayed’s yacht taken one week before her death and said she wanted to pay homage to the “isolation” it conveyed. On SOS, she feels like a superwoman who deserves the world one minute, and a depressive second-stringer sacrificing her well-being for garbage men the next. She counteracts the millennial Bad Bitch/Sad Girl dichotomy (tale as old as time) by filling in the vast emotional space between. The album opens with the Morse code distress call and a sample of the Gabriel Hardeman Delegation’s 1976 gospel exhortation “Until I Found the Lord (My Soul Couldn’t Rest),” which lead her into a muscular opus of self-determination, singing in a rap cadence/breath-control flex about how she’s simply over the “fuckshit.” This opening title track sets up a kind of thesis for most of the album: that even amid self-doubt, she’s gloved up, in the ring, a heavyweight champ looking for the belt.

We already know SZA’s dedication to her work is indefatigable—amid public woes with her longtime record label TDE and her major-label partner RCA, she wrote hundreds of songs for what became SOS, so culling it to just 23 is, in context, an exercise in restraint. At the same time, SOS is a clear document of how extensively SZA has sharpened her songwriting since the exquisite CTRL, how she’s become an even more exacting lyricist and imaginative musician. While placing herself firmly in the tradition of R&B, she’s forcefully blasé about genre tropes. On SOS, she belts her face off on an instant classic “fuck you” number (“I Hate U”) alongside a savage rap track that recalls the glory days of physical mixtapes (“Smokin on my Ex Pack”) and, perhaps improbably, a country song with a pop-punk chorus about revenge sex (“F2F”). This can sometimes land in the mushy middle—“Ghost in the Machine,” her breathlessly anticipated collab with Phoebe Bridgers, finds them mirroring each others’ vocal timbres over glitch electronica complete with synthetic harps courtesy of frequent collaborators Rob Bisel and Carter Lang. And “Special,” a track about body dysmorphia, sounds like she was writing from a Swiftian persona, à la her loosie “Joni,” yet comes off a bit pat sandwiched between a compendium of songs where she richly depicts the same sentiment. 

But, wow, woe to her trifling exes. On the bait-and-switch stalker lullaby “Kill Bill,” she lodges the chorus, “I might kill my ex/Not the best idea,” getting all her darkest thoughts on the page with a strolling electric bass holding her hand. “Blind” delivers “my pussy precedes me,” and, “You still talking ’bout babies/I’m still takin’ a Plan B,” on a soothing, string-laden ballad befitting a water sign. “Nobody Gets Me,” another tumultuous acoustic ballad that conjures “Fade Into You” transmitted through an AM radio in Nashville, proffers a carnal scenario: “You were balls deep/Now we beefin’/And we butt-naked at the MGM, so wasted, screamin’ ‘fuck that.’” She is a seriously funny songwriter, who also dignifies her specific visual place-setting (Vegas is particularly cursed) and raw expression of feelings by giving them space and melody. 

While delivering these insights, SZA is at her most intimate, with a suite of mid-tempo songs that elevate the loping pace with her vocal and emotional dynamics. She places herself in the lineage of classic R&B, as on the open-heart ballad “Gone Girl,” a moving break-up song over a warm Rhodes piano that showcases the purity of her vocal range. “Too Late” draws sonically from mid-’80s Janet Jackson and wonders if the breakup was the wrong move, while “Far” negates that thought while surveying the aftermath: “I’m far cause I can’t trust nobody,” she practically weeps, compelling you right alongside her, rooting for her to pick herself up from the mess. And on “Snooze,” a Babyface-produced track so rooted in the classics that the outro fades out rather than ends, she memorializes the woozy feeling of being in love before sneaking in a pitch-shifted addendum: “How you threatening to leave and I’m the main one crying?”

Even amid her copious emotional toil, SZA still stands on her own terms. SOS ends with an Ol’ Dirty Bastard freestyle, which she pulled from old documentary footage shot by legendary R&B producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. The sample, which ended up in “Goin’ Down” on Return to the 36 Chambers, bookends her final missive on an album where she does what she does best while showcasing her stylistic versatility. “Give a fuck what you prefer,” she rap-sings over a grimy boom-bap. “I’m too profound to go back and forth/With no average dork.” Maturity looks good on her—who among us hasn’t scolded herself with a version of “damn bitch you so thirsty,” as she intones on the soundly quotable “Shirt”?  It’s that exact melange of confidence and pettiness that has engendered such passion for her music and persona. SZA’s talent is otherworldly, but you just might know someone a little like her, too. It might even be you. 
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
SZA - SOS Music Album Reviews SZA - SOS Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 16, 2022 Rating: 5


Post a Comment