A Review of SZA’s SOS

SZA’s latest album mixes heartbreak and ecstasy.

Greta Mott, Staff Writer

Singer SZA released her second studio album SOS on December 9th, 2022.  It is her first album drop since her debut album, Ctrl, which was released in June of 2019.  The album is 23 songs long with a total time of one hour and eight minutes, and it has four features from Don Toliver, Phoebe Bridgers, Travis Scott, and Russell Jones.

The first song is the title track of the album. The song starts off with the sound of a flare getting set off, like an SOS signal.  SZA’s vocals are crisp and carry much emotion. SOS introduces the album’s theme of ridding toxic love and references “Blind,” a song that will come up later on the track list. The song ends with SZA crying, asking for help.

The next track on the album is “Kill Bill,” the song that blew up on TikTok. The beat is catchy and the vocals fit perfectly with the vibe. The song talks about still being in love with an ex and not wanting to see them being with anyone else. It relates to the feeling of not wanting to see someone be happy with anyone other than you.

The third song on the album is “Seek & Destroy,” which brings up the topic of self-sabotage. SZA sings about sabotaging her own relationships to avoid getting hurt. Along with powerful lyrics, her vocals are euphoric.

“Low” is the fourth song on the album and my personal favorite. Essentially, it talks about keeping relationships private and casual, reflecting modern-day morals on relationships. My favorite part about the song is SZA’s flow. She sounds smooth and catchy and even dives into her deeper register. Travis Scott makes an appearance in the background vocals and proves once again how lovely their voices blend together.

“Love Language” examines how SZA wants to learn her significant others’ love language to be able to connect with and understand them. The song highlights the importance of communication and comfort within a relationship. 

The whimsical instrumentation of “Love Language” transitions perfectly into the poetic melody of the next track, “Blind,” which references how the artist’s past relationships are embarrassing. She acts blind to the love she used to have for the people who never deserved it. The chorus of the song is simply SZA repeating the word “blind” in her incredible falsetto. Listeners either love it or hate it, but personally, I love it.

“Used.” featuring Don Toliver, speaks about past relationships where they have been used. The song goes in-depth about how they have lost all their patience for people who use others for their own gain. Toliver’s tone beautifully captures the emotion in the chorus, making it my favorite part of the song.

The eighth track on the album is “Snooze.” The beat is chill and supports the flowing melody nicely. The song is about how SZA doesn’t want to sleep and be without her significant other because they are too important to her to be without. It is the cutest song on the album.

“Notice Me” starts with a funky beat that is hard to listen to without bopping your head along. The song is about reminiscing on a failed relationship and missing the platonic part of it. It portrays the feeling of not wanting a label, instead just wanting the person.

The next track is one of my top three favorites, “Gone Girl,” which is about feeling suffocated in a relationship. Someone can love so much that it will drive another crazy and eventually away. SZA says she wants to be able to grow without holding unnecessarily supporting someone else. My favorite part of this song is the pre-chorus. It talks about speaking your truth in what you want in a relationship and is very emotional while keeping a chill beat.

“Smoking on my Ex Pack” is the next track and the shortest song on the album. The song immediately starts off with SZA effortlessly rolling lyrics off her tongue with a strong drum beat in the background. The song features SZA exposing her ex over all the wrong things he had done to her. SZA elaborates on how she is done with his attitude and has enough self-worth to leave him. The only thing I don’t like about this song is how short it is!

“Ghost in the Machine,” which features Phoebe Bridgers, is the twelfth track. Due to Bridgers’ involvement, the song is a favorite of lot of SZA listeners. It is the most alternative-sounding song on the album as well. The song examines how working in the music industry makes SZA feel less human. She feels worked like a machine. The lyrics are basically SOS signals, while Bridgers’ verse reveals how she feels taken for granted because of her fame and needs a way out.

“F2F” is the next track on the album, coming in as one of my top three songs on the album. The song sounds like something Avril Lavigne would put out in her prime. The lyrics express how she fills the void of a specific person on her mind with random strangers. It alludes to her earlier song “Smoking on my Ex Pack” and is the most surprising track on the album. As well as being the most surprising, it is the most widely hated by her listeners. To me, it was nice hearing her voice in a different genre from R&B, offering a nice change to mix it up around halfway through the album.

Probably the most awaited song on the album, “Nobody Gets Me” is up next on the track list. Shortly before the release of the album, the chorus was leaked and started trending on TikTok. The production is melancholy and indie, and the songwriting emphasizes the feeling of losing the one person who understands you. SZA speaks about how she only likes herself when she is with this person and does not know what to do without them by her side. This song is one of the most gut-wrenching, sad songs.

To switch up vibes, “Conceited” is the next track, which talks about how SZA won’t let circumstances beyond her control affect her negatively. It is a nice pick-me-up after the sad song that precedes it.

The next track, “Special” brings the feel-good, girl-boss vibes to a crashing halt. One word to describe it is depressing. Tears escape every time the song starts to play. “Special” is about giving yourself up for someone else who still leaves, feeling like you gave your heart away to someone unworthy. Teenage girls relate to this song very easily due to SZA beautifully putting their experiences into perspective.

The next song, “Too Late,” picks up the vibe with a chill beat and vocals. It talks about missing someone and wondering if it is too late to get back a relationship lost. However, the song is not my personal favorite due to its repetitiveness.

The eighteenth song is called “Far.” It deals with rejections and losing yourself. SZA feels far from who she used to be. She also incorporates how she feels burnt out from working so hard, building a theme similar to her previous song “Ghost in the Machine.”

The next song was a pre-released single, “Shirt.” The chorus of the song blew up on TikTok around a year ago due to its crisp vocals and catchiness.

“Open Arms” (feat. Travis Scott) is the twentieth song and the third feature on SZA’s sophomore album. “Open Arms” is their fifth collaboration together. The song is about being devoted to a person who accepts the real you and feeling the need to be in love with someone forever no matter what.

By just the title alone, “I Hate U” strongly contrasts the mood of the previous song. This song was released in August 2021. SZA’s vocals are heavily edited, just like her earlier releases. The song is about how she has a hatred for someone due to the way they treated her, knowing she deserves better.

“Good Days” was released in 2020 and reminds many people of quarantine times. The song starts with a blissful guitar and bird noises, creating a calming atmosphere. She reminisces on good days in her past and how she hopes she didn’t waste them on an irrelevant person.

“Forgiveless” (feat. Russell Jones) finishes off the album, though it does not do so as I would hope. It sounds like an early 2000s rap which is not my favorite genre of hers. It sounds out of place on the album, and SZA’s lyrics don’t connect as much as all the other songs on the album.

Overall, however, I love the album. While listening, I noticed that not only has SZA’s style blossomed, but her voice has also developed. She sounds more emotional and is less auto-tuned and edited, which I prefer.  The writing is relatable for the target audience, and I am excited to see what else she comes out with in the years to come.