SOS: Rediscovering SZA
My first encounter with SZA's music was back when I was in middle school. Being angsty was a thing in my cohort as we were going through puberty. So, my days went by listening to Linkin Park, Nirvana and Green Day, the holy trinity of emo kids. However, I can vaguely recall myself watching an episode of SNL where SZA was the musical guest. I remember experiencing a duality of emotions: repugnance and awe, as I watched her perform a song the name of which has escaped my mind. SZA was a novelty, her music felt foreign to me.
Fast forward to the 2021 – I had entered adulthood and the prickly angst that confined me to rock and grudge left me. My music preference transfigured substantially. From finding electric guitars appealing to developing an embarrassing amount of love for indie music, I grew up.
Though I was not quite a Doja Cat fan, I decided to give her song "Kiss Me More" featuring SZA a listen, the same SZA I found incomprehensible almost a decade back, due to the song's immense popularity. Something about her captivated me and immediately I found myself exploring her music. She successfully managed to baptise me with her musicality and inducted me to the world of R&B.
SZA's newest album SOS had dethroned Taylor Swift's Midnights for the number one position on the Billboard 200. While this is an extraordinary feat in and of itself, the album is an absolute gem, and this remark is coming from someone who didn't even like SZA.
From the album cover which is a homage to Princess Diana, getting Lizzo to co-write "F2F" to featuring the fantabulous indie sprite Phoebe Bridgers "Ghost in the Machine", SZA left no stone unturned to make SOS's carnation almost divine.
The album contains twenty three songs, all concocted with care and cunning. Revolving around heartbreak and deceit, SZA sings about jealousy, insecurities, and obsessiveness in SOS. Through the album, SZA takes her listeners along with her to explore the pangs of losing love, and rather than pasting cutouts of hurt and agony on a journal, she experimented with the feeling, seeing all sides – hers and her partner's.
This compare and contrast approach of hers gave her listeners toxic obsessiveness in "Kill Bill", and guilt and self-blaming in "Special", where she apologizes for being herself. SOS is a journey through shades of loss and grief, of a venomous love and the conquering of it.
If Olivia Rodrigo's album Sour, her massively acclaimed debut album, is put side by side SOS and studied, the former is a teenager's attempt at appraising heartbreak and so the atmosphere that the album creates is plain and rudimentary. The latter however skips pebbles on the already perturbed waters of the broken heart and the ripples thus created lead to newer and more mature yet troubling emotions.
This article isn't a review of SOS. It is a glimpse of my ecstasy on rediscovering SZA and consequently gaining the opportunity to tap into a previously unknown part of myself. With growing up and circumstantial changes, the way in which we deal with our emotions also changes. Trying new things is scary but it also begets the chance to understand ourselves a little bit more. And the joy of finding familiarity in something you always thought was never your jam is almost spiritual.
Mastura is trying to unblock her root chakra. Send her meditation tips at [email protected]