By Paulina Bargnesi
Solána Rowe, also known as SZA, is a renowned singer and songwriter who has managed to stay in the public’s eye even with a five year hiatus, with her last album being released in June 2017. Her music consists of laidback beats with emotional, powerful, and relatable lyrics. In her new album SOS, SZA shares her growth as an artist and explores many different genres. In Ctrl, her debut album, she shared her discontent with love and herself. In an interview with The Breakfast Club she states, “Ctrl is a concept. I’ve lacked control my whole life and I think I’ve craved it my whole life.” In her newest album she works with the themes of Ctrl but expands on them in a new direction. In this album, she is vengeful and alone. She’s scared of losing herself and her control. Many people love her music because she is relatable with her wide array of feelings. This is why this album was worth the wait for so many fans.
The first track, “SOS”, describes the concept of this album. She is back, spiteful and emotional. This song cleverly begins with a distress call in morse code for S.O.S.
The second track of the album is “Kill Bill”, which is heavily influenced by the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill. SZA equates herself to Beatrix Kiddo (the Bride). SZA wants to kill her ex and his new girlfriend, much like Beatrix who goes on a killing spree and ends up murdering her ex lover. In the 2017 hit single “Drew Barrymore” SZA mentions the idea of needing therapy: “I get so lonely, I forget what I’m worth / I’m so ashamed of myself, think I need therapy.” In “Kill Bill”, SZA revisits the theme of needing therapy. This time, however, she has a therapist, but the advice that the therapist gives her is not what she wants to hear, so she doesn’t listen.
SZA explores feelings of not being worthy enough in both Ctrl and SOS, only in different ways. In Ctrl, she describes her fears, her attempts to control them, and the emotions they come with. In SOS, she carries the same fears, but now, instead of controlling these fears, she turns them into rage that she will take out on everyone. This is especially apparent in the song “Seek & Destroy”.
In SZA’s sixth track “Blind”, she explains how she lost the meaning of what is important in life after being let down by others. She has been in relationships with the wrong people, and she admits that. She can’t change her past, but she has to move on.
“Snooze” is about how SZA is willing to do anything for this person she loves. She longs to be this person’s number one and doesn’t want to “snooze” when she is with them because they are just too important to her. Even though this person is quite toxic, she still seeks his validation and approval. “How you frontin’ on me and I’m the main one tryin’? How you blame it on me and you the main one lyin’? How you threatenin’ to leave and I’m the main one cryin’?”
“Ghost in the Machine”, my personal favorite song in the album, has a unique beat that’s so addicting. This techno-beat sound plays with the meaning of the song. In this song SZA talks about feeling like a machine in the music industry. She constantly feels the pressure to produce and produce, or risk the fate of being irrelevant. SZA has talked about how she believes that the industry wasn’t made for humans, it was made for machines. In the song she asks for her significant other to help her escape from the industry, even if it is just for the time being because she craves human connections and touch.
“Nobody Gets Me” is SZA’s fourteenth track on the album. It is about SZA’s break-up with an ex-fiance and how she believed that she would be all alone because no one understood her or motivated her like he did. “I pretend when I’m with a man it’s you,” she sings, and this unhealthy way of thinking is the only way she gets over him. She’ll never find the same deep connection she had with her ex-fiance with another man.
“Conceited” has a much different feeling from her other songs. In this song, she feels confident and doesn’t seek validation from anyone but herself. “I got no reason to depend on you / No reason to make friends, I’m cool.” Before this song, we had never seen this version of SZA. She was constantly seeking love from others and felt isolated, but now she realizes that she’s okay with being alone.
On Ctrl, she often talked about feeling insecure, especially with the song “Supermodel”. “Supermodel” reminds me a lot of “Special” from SOS. Both songs talk about SZA’s insecurities after being left by her ex for another woman. In “Special” SZA compares herself to the other woman. The other woman wears couture and never has to wear makeup, while SZA has “pimples where her beauty marks should be” and “dry skin on her elbows and knees.”
The last song in this review is “Far”. In this song, SZA wants to know how to deal with rejection, but also why she doesn’t feel like herself. She lets the rejection define her, causing her to feel so unlike herself, to the point where she doesn’t recognize who she’s become. On November 1st, 2021, SZA met with Sadhguru for inner engineering, a process of using yoga and meditation to balance daily challenges with internal peace and well-being. He told her, “If nobody wants you, you’re free,” after she asked, “How do I deal with rejection?” She uses their conversation as the intro to “Far”.
In this album, we become more familiar with SZA and get to see her in a new light. It becomes apparent that SZA has experienced a change in her attitude towards life and how she wants others to view her as a person and an artist.