SOS: Sza, Girl, Are You Okay?
SZA is Still Playing the Victim.
The year is 2017, I hear this song that captures my subconscious, and it is on repeat for the remainder of my summer. Yes, if you had a radio or went out to a bar, you heard the songbird SZA belt out your emotions in “Love Galore.” The song brought her once underground sound to the public and captured all of us. It teased the album that would articulate my early 20s as a chaotic, beautiful, broken, and bountiful journey.
CTRL, at the time, didn’t feel like a classic to many people, but looking back at the period, it was the zeitgeist of what it felt like to be 20-something. The album got me through the lonely nights after fighting with my partner, the times when I was broke in my Queens apartment, wondering how I would make $20 last for a week, and served as a daily reminder that we weren’t stuck in those times forever. So as I listened to this album and felt comforted, I understood the assignment was to grow beyond these times and navigate the tricky landscape of early adulthood.
It’s been six years, and I'm happy to say your girl has grown and blossomed into a virtuous lady. I repeatedly repeated a line from “Normal Girl”: “this time next year, I’ll be living so good.” With therapy and analyzing my inner trauma, I felt like waves of darkness and self-sabotage were part of things in my control (for the most part). So, when I heard the teaser singles coming from SZA, “Good Days” and “Hate U,” I knew this new album would be more of a vulnerable diary that dove into the emotions that we typically mask to keep ourselves sane during the day to day chaos of life, dating, adulthood, and responsibility. SZA has a way of reminding us that the emotions we compartmentalize are there, existing and breathing. Like kombucha, being fermented for the day, we admit to ourselves that we need to drink this for our health.
Then I heard SOS and knew instantly that some of these feelings I had in advance of the album’s release might not have been accurate. This album is not the same collection of 20-something anthems or “Drew Barrymore” belt-worthy lines. I heard nothing but straight broken heartedex-subbingand lack of self-discovery in each track. These are still very raw and valid emotions for those going through it, but after the healing and work that the first album inspired in me, each track sounded like that one friend who goes through the same chaotic spiral every weekend. There is no realization of self-worth in sight. “Special” reminded me of a friend I knew needed to be cuddled and told, " F*** these men, let’s do us.”
It’s possible that in the time I’ve been growing and winning some of the battles CTRL brought to the surface, s, we had a movement of City Girls, Megan Thee Stallion, and other women telling us to forget being in our feelings and be about our business. The R&B girlies, such as Jazmine Sullivan, have also been telling us to have our partners come to pick up their feelings. We’ve been empowered to heal and thrive for so long that being sad over a mishap or a toxic relationship hasn’t been within my capability to care.
So I think SOS has its hits, like “Blind,” “Shirt,” and “Gone Girl,” but the rest sounds like a long diss track or a series of Instagram captions for subbing your ex. For the healed and trying to live in the now girlies, I think this one isn’t for us to feel, but just to vibe.
** Last note, Sza is finally touring again; ticket sales are coming on 12/15 on Ticketmaster.