SZA – SOS, Album Review

Topping the charts on numerous occasions, 'SOS' places SZA exactly where she belongs.

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Kam Jenkins Music Writer
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Contemporary R&B struggles to innovate. It lives in both the shadows of its past as well as modern hip-hop. The Black-owned business that is R&B undergoes identity crisis more often than not. Some of its most popular artists plateau creatively before they come into their own as artists. Thus complacency bears fruit. Enter SZA, the royal songstress of hip-hop’s Top Dawg Entertainment label. Since 2017, fans and critics alike awaited the return of the most compelling R&B figure in America. (Beyoncé transcends genre. Hush.) Her studio debut Ctrl left me in awe. Craftsmanship, authentic emotion, and artistic accountability. These are the primary ingredients in the SZA album recipe. On SOS, I am happy to conclude nothing much has changed. Rather she continues to evolve as a fine artist.

Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images for The Mark

Emphasis on the fine. Each new release marks a higher plane of awareness for SZA. Five and a half years feels like forever. And yet she seems right on time. Despite multiple setbacks on her label’s part, she persevered, staying true to her sound and creative vision through it all. Title track “SOS” sets a tone of brash reflection and transparency. Here she allows her vulnerability to become her greatest strength. Across the remainder of the 23-track record SZA creates an environment wherein opposites such as regret and self-assuredness thrive side-by-side. This hour-long look in the mirror showcases how brilliance breathes. Inhale the doubt. Exhale the love. Inhale the love. Exhale the peace. This is a world in which pettiness and responsibility meet.

Omar Vega / FilmMagic

Whether it’s the subtle absurdism of “Kill Bill,” the navigation of self-doubt on “Special,” or exploring the nuances of romance like on “Gone Girl,” SOS delivers equal parts of fun and contemplation. Cohesive and eclectic production choices set this listening experience on a voyage. As SZA searches beyond the horizon for a patch of greener grass she discovers there is no time like the present to forgive your past and protect yourself against those who come to claim your peace as their own. All while carving out some space to talk her shit too. Other than the ones I’ve mentioned, “Snooze,” “Seek & Destroy,” and “Too Late” embody what makes this album so effective. If you haven’t already then listen for yourself. Let’s see if we can get SZA back to number-one.

SZA – SOS, Album Review
Vocal Performance
Pristine Mixing
Brilliant Vocal Control
Cohesive Sound Palette
Some Sonic Overlap

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