The magic of SZA’s artistry is her ability to truly welcome listeners into her inner monologue, her honest conversations and musings with herself as she navigates the rollercoaster emotions of life and relationships. She has a poignant way of putting to lyrics the relatable, humorous, sometimes embarrassing, often painful experiences of life and relationships. That’s why her beloved triple platinum debut album, Ctrl, has resonated with R&B fans for more than five years since its original release in 2017.
SZA reminded the world of Ctrl’s continued relevance with the release of a deluxe version in June 2022 on the album’s 5th anniversary. The surprise deluxe album both celebrated the immense impact of Ctrl and prepared fans for a new era of SZA music – which, after five long years, has finally arrived.
On December 9, SZA released her long-awaited sophomore album SOS. The 23-track album shattered sales and streaming records with 318,000 units sold and 404.590 streams in its first week – the biggest streaming week ever for an R&B album. With such impressive figures posted since its release, SOS has already captivated fans and music industry critics who praise the work for its stylistic variety and SZA for her vocal delivery.
SOS begins with the sound of Morse code spelling out “SOS” on the title track, which is built on a sample of “Until I Found the Lord (My Soul Couldn’t Rest)” by The Gabriel Hardeman Delegation – also famously sampled by Drake on “Champagne Poetry.” At the end of the song, SZA interpolates lyrics and melody from Beyoncé’s “Listen.”
“Kill Bill,” a fan favorite upon the release of SOS, highlights SZA’s self-proclaimed jealous tendencies and fantasies of killing her ex and his new girlfriend. She vows, “If I can’t have him, no one will.” The song’s title alludes to Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film Kill Bill, in which a female assassin murders an ex-boyfriend. SZA’s toxic mentality is further emphasized by her admittance that she would prefer punishment over loneliness from her ex, for whom she still has feelings. “I might kill my ex / I still love him though / Rather be in jail than alone,” she sings. With over 84 million streams on Spotify, SZA’s revenge anthem is a driving force behind the success of SOS. As of December 23, 2022, “Kill Bill” is the most-streamed song on SOS (besides the singles) and has topped several R&B Billboard charts, as well as reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
While SZA is known for her genre-bending experimentation, she pays homage to classic, old school R&B and hip hop on tracks like “Love Language,” “Snooze,” and “Forgiveless,” the latter featuring late rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The Babyface-produced “Snooze” simmers like a ‘90s slow jam, while “Love Language” includes an Aaliyah sample of “I Don’t Wanna” immediately followed by a sample of SZA’s own “Hit Different.”
The 33-year-old singer spits rhymes on the record for the first time ever, showcasing her rapping chops on “Smoking on My Ex Pack.” She also explores rock music on “F2F,” an alternative rock song featuring background vocals from Lizzo. Other major features on the album include Phoebe Bridgers on “Ghost in the Machine,” Don Toliver on “Used,” and Travis Scott on “Open Arms.” The album’s final few tracks include the three singles SZA released over the past few years prior to SOS – “Good Days” (2020), “I Hate U” (2021), and “Shirt” (2022).
SZA recently announced her upcoming nineteen-date North American tour in support of SOS, which will begin on February 21, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. The tour will be her first arena tour and will feature Omar Apollo as the opening act. According to an Instagram Live, SZA is currently in the process of filming several music videos for the album.
Stream SOS by SZA below on Spotify.