Jump inside the mind of SZA in her everlasting battle with love and self-reliance.
Five long years has passed since SZA’s debut album CTRL dropped and it was well worth the wait with the release of SOS. The 2017 LP featured heavy emotion in Solana’s self-discovery and SOS is the second part in her quest. SZA takes listeners on a journey through her healing process after a breakup and highlights the imperfections of one’s venture.
The former marine biologist student opens the album with an eerie Morse code distress signal. The introductory tracks are filled with frustration and anger. She wants her past lover and the world to feel the hurt she felt. SZA channels her inner Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill” plotting to her ex and his newest lover.
I just want what’s mine
This ain’t no warnin’ shot
Case all you hoes forgot
And I cried and cried
Said what’s on my mind
Ooh, oh, I cried
- SZA, on “SOS”
She points how she was not on drugs but might’ve been high on the strongest drug of all – love. “Seek & Destroy” leaves SZA with the damages of her destruction. The oxymoron of feeling drained and ruining everything, yet she feels free. She’s free of those initial piercing emotions but remains bound in being lost.
All the hurt I know
Is used to heal my soul
- SZA, on “Seek & Destroy”
Starting with “Low,” listeners are in the hot-and-cold battle in SZA’s mind. Having hatred to fuel the ego for self-fulfillment. The independent wonder leaves SZA uncomfortable and wanting to feel what was previously comfortable. At the end of “Love Language,” there’s an amazing interpolation of Aaliyah’s “I Don’t Wanna” to signify that actualization. It leaves SZA blinded, weak and asking for strength to confront the wall.
I greatly enjoy the use of the male features on the album with Don Toliver and Travis Scott to bring the male perspectives of SZA’s story. Hell of a year by Don Toliver as he elevates on all levels as an artist from LIFE OF A DON to his guest features on Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry, DJ Khaled’s GOD DID, and Metro Boomin’s Heroes & Villains.
Now SZA is back to being lost but now she’s in control (no pun intended). She tries to “grow without hating the process”…she yearns for comfort but realizes her strength. “Smoking on my Ex Pack” is everything you thought it would be (with all the right reasons). The braggadocious track is a great high before peeking into SZA’s empty shell on “Ghost in the Machine.” The yearn for human affection while being on autopilot mentally. The shell creates a guard in fear of vulnerability. “F2F” is the country, grunge/rock mix that’s a destructive path. Almost a self-blame for still holding emotions for her ex-lover.
The constant back and forth battle between SZA gaining her strength but resorting back to her lover is a roller coaster ride. Each time, she slowly but surely gains strength and awareness to let go. She understands the damage that’s done and the weight that’s needed to let go. On “Special,” there’s an ode to “Normal Girl” from CTRL where SZA sits and observes herself.
I wish I was that girl from that Gucci store
She never wore any makeup and she owns couture
I got pimples where my beauty marks should be
I got dry skin on my elbows and knees
I never liked her, wanted to be like her
Hate how you look at her ’cause you never saw me
Like I was an art piece, like I was an ordinary girl
- SZA, on “Special”
I love how the latest single “Shirt” fits in the album. Going back to what’s comfortable, which is in her “sins.” Here, she’s more aware of the battle. On “Open Arms” she seeks the comfort she has, but finally releases the weight. The native song at the end helps bring her back to getting in tune with herself. The 2021 single “I Hate U” returns the initial rage with SZA letting everything go.
There’s no lateral way to heal and that’s perfectly fine. In the end, SZA just wants a break from it all. The placement of “Good Days” brings hope to healing. “Forgiveless” is a conversation SZA has with herself mixed with the animated Wu-Tang legend Ol’ Dirty Bastard. At the end of the album, SZA finds herself just like the album cover – lost at sea in the expedition of finding herself.