SZA knocks it out of the park with S.O.S.

by Rachel Crowell

SZA knocks it out of the park with S.O.S.

S.O.S. is an ambitious album packed with sinister lyrics and beautifully sung melodies. SZA wrote her sophomore album following a broken engagement and spoke about it in an interview with Hot 97. In the interview, she revealed that the song, “Nobody Gets Me” is about feelings of loneliness post-breakup. The artist shows an adventurous side of her music taste contrasting debut album, CTRL. The St. Louis artist ventures away from her typical R&B sound towards rock, hip hop, and neo soul in several tracks throughout the album. “F2F” stands starkly against the soulful melodies on the rest of the album. Written with the help of pop artist Lizzo, SZA decided to break away from her typical lofi beats with chords from an angry electric guitar.

Although fans compare the song to Hannah Montana content, it shows just how fearless SZA is as a solo artist. The album is her longest release yet following her 2017 project, CTRL. Because of its length, S.O.S. feels more like a deluxe version, composed of 23 songs. In an interview with Rolling Stone, SZA talked about her thoughts surrounding the arrangement of the album saying, “OK, this is who I’ve been for the last five years. And I don’t know if it makes any sense or if it goes together, but this is what’s hot.” The album is truly ‘hot,’ sitting at the top of the charts one month after its release.

S.O.S. builds on themes from her first release, CTRL. Feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem are prominent in songs such as “Love Language,” “Special,” “Blind,” and “Snooze.” She cleverly masks songs about toxicity and deception with crooning melodies, tricking the listener into thinking that SZA’s lyrics are about love. She desires external validation so much that she craves toxic relationships, talking about “mobbin’, schemin’, lottin’, and hidin’” bodies for her partner in “Snooze.” She neglects healthy love and instead desires a toxic relationship. Interestingly, a lot of the tracks on S.O.S. are masked with self-empowerment when they are truly about how SZA doesn’t know how to feel self-worth without a partner’s validation. As the album progresses, she struggles to find internal validation in songs like “Ghost in the Machine,” “Conceited,” and “Far.” 

S.O.S. rarely boasts self-improvement, instead serving as a cry for help in line with the album’s title. She flits and flutters between feelings of revenge and hopeless insecurity. Although the trigger of SZA’s anger is unknown, “Kill Bill,” “Seek and Destroy,” and “Shirt” are the most ruthless songs on the album. Thematically, they fit together and show SZA’s out for blood. The hit “Kill Bill” mimics the plot of Tarantino film, Kill Bill, which is based on martial arts films and includes anime sequences. SZA has paid homage to these movie genres before in previous music videos like “Doves in the Wind.” Action-packed visuals fill the songs “Kill Bill” and “Seek and Destroy,” and “Low.”As the album progresses, she shifts from feelings of aggression and reveals that she feels broken and lonely without her partner in songs like “Far,” “Special,” and “Nobody Gets Me.”

Although every song on the album is well-crafted and sung angelically, the end of the album feels like an afterthought. While Ctrl’s narrative was led by the voice of SZA’s mother, S.O.S. lacks the same narrative focus. After the eighteenth track “Far,” the album narrative is lost. “Shirt,” a song about revenge and violence would fit perfectly with songs like “Kill Bill,” and “Seek and Destroy.” Unfortunately, instead of placing the song higher in the tracklist, SZA placed it between “Far” and “Open Arms,” two songs where she sings about distancing herself from toxic relationships. 

Despite its confusing ending, S.O.S. still manages to showcase SZA’s talent and growth as a performer. The artist’s sophomore album is sure to leave a lasting impact on the music from 2022 and satisfy fans’ craving for new music after almost 6 years of waiting. I look forward to what SZA releases in the future. Surprisingly, she revealed to the Rolling Stone that she has a few more unreleased rock songs that might come out of the vaults in the future. S.O.S. is an extraordinary exploration of SZA’s twisted psyche and displays her profound talent for creating truly unique music.