SZA’s ‘SOS’ tops charts

The R&B singer’s sophomore album tops the charts with clever, relatable lyricism and smooth, talented vocals


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SZA’s ‘SOS’ is deeply relatable, writes Collyn Ballentine.

Collyn Ballentine, Contributing Writer

With clever, relatable lyricism and smooth, talented vocals, R&B singer SZA’s “SOS” has topped the charts and has become popular with college-aged listeners.

SZA’s second R&B album “SOS” was released on Dec. 9, 2022 following three singles — “Good Days”, “I Hate U”, and “Shirt”. As it is her first album in five years, “SOS” was long-awaited by both fans and critics.

The album contains 23 songs featuring popular artists such as Phoebe Bridgers, Don Tolliver, Travis Scott and Dirty Ol’ Bastard. From heartfelt choruses in “Nobody Gets Me”, to angsty pop-rock head-banger “F2F”, to almost rap-like verses in “Smoking on My Ex-Pack” and “Forgiveness”, SZA does it all with beautiful execution.

On “SOS”, SZA gets vulnerable, showcasing her feelings of heartbreak, anger and loneliness with great self-awareness. SZA’s ability to transcribe the complexity of emotions into her music is remarkable — she tells us the introspective, personal story of her life following a failed relationship that is all too relatable, particularly for college-aged women.

“I really love the album because I feel like no matter the person or their experience, SZA’s lyrics are extremely relatable,” sophomore Lara Fellows said. “I also think the album is really cool because it tells a story of her feelings indirectly. It starts with anger and denial, with songs such as ‘Kill Bill’. It moves on to her questioning why she hasn’t been good enough for some with songs like ‘Special’, and then it finishes on a high note. She recognizes that with pain comes healing through her song ‘Good Days’. Overall, I think the album is authentic and shamelessly truthful.”

“Kill Bill” — the track that would go on to find viral success on TikTok — showcases SZA’s ability to portray her feelings of love, hate, anger and denial through lyrics detailing a murder fantasy: “I might kill my ex, not the best idea. His new girlfriend’s next, how’d I get here? I might kill my ex, I still love him though, rather be in jail than alone.” Here, SZA takes unchecked rage and jealousy and represents it fanatically through her singing.

In a 2022 interview, SZA told Glamour magazine, “This is my villain era, and I’m comfortable with that.”

SZA’s embrace of her sadness, anger and lyrical villainhood connect to Generation Z listeners well-versed in the popularity of the almost, but not quite, sarcastic “eras” TikTok trend.

After this relatable portrayal of her denial of a failed relationship, the mood of the album transitions to sadness and self-questioning. On “Special,” SZA details her feelings of not being good enough after the breakup. She sings, “I got pimples where my beauty marks should be,” explaining her insecurity in a world that promotes impossible body ideals.

The chorus continues the theme of insecurity — “I wish I was special, I gave all my special, away to a loser, now I’m just a loser.” The simplicity and repetition of these lyrics mimic relatable bouts of mental spiraling. SZA connects to the audience with her ability to mimic the negative mental spirals many young women experience.

Lastly, the album transitions toward peace and the hope that better days are ahead in songs like “I Hate U” and “Good Days.”

While SZA takes listeners through an emotional, lyrical journey, she also captivates the listeners through her vocals and musical arrangements. Her smooth, soulful voice is addictive. SZA keeps the attention of listeners as each song has a different feel from the next, despite having a strong story arc to the album.

Beyond the vocals, “SOS” is successful in blending R&B with pop and rap, even incorporating elements of soft rock. In addition, she uses synthetic instrumentals and lo-fi beats to create a truly unique listening experience. The diversity of sound is tied together by common themes and makes the album feel more dynamic.

I truly admire this album for its musical and lyrical uniqueness, and I recommend that everyone gives it a listen.