SZA’s sophomore album “SOS” explores themes of heartbreak, confidence and insecurity. She takes us through every emotion that ensues after a breakup: hating someone, wanting them back, learning to love yourself and looking forward to the future.
SZA does not try to choose one mood for the album but rather encapsulates a variety. Her versatility can be seen with features from indie singer Phoebe Bridgers and rappers Don Toliver and Travis Scott.
The album begins with “SOS,” a bold song that establishes SZA’s assertiveness over her love life. SZA’s vengeful side comes out on “Kill Bill” with the sleek chorus, “I might kill my ex / Not the best idea.” One of the most popular songs on the album, “Shirt,” was originally teased on TikTok in 2020 and released as single in October 2022. This song also goes along with the theme of confidence and losing sympathy for an ex.
“I Hate U” further expresses SZA’s contempt of the breakup with lines that are sure to be iconic for years to come: “And if you wonder if I hate you (I do) / Shitty of you to make me feel just like this / What I would do to make you feel just like this.”
The album also has songs where SZA’s lows are revealed. Songs like “Gone Girl” and “Used” reveal SZA’s heartache following a breakup. On “Gone Girl,” SZA lists the things that she needs in a relationship and warns that she will be gone without them. “Used” exposes SZA’s pattern of being used by others to the point where she is numb to this feeling. SZA expresses the difficulty of loving yourself without validation from others on the track “Blind” with the powerful lyrics “All of the love I seek living inside of me / I can’t see, I’m blind.”
Five years after the release of SZA's first album “CTRL,” “SOS” provides the introspectiveness that “CTRL” was missing. Throughout the album, we can see how SZA has matured following “CTRL” and has a new perspective. On “SOS,” SZA’s wish to be seen as different from other girls during the song “Special” contradicts the track “Normal Girl” from “CTRL” where she expresses her wish to be typically feminine, thinking that this will make her more desirable. Unlike “Normal Girl”, “Special” recognizes that her ex was the problem all along.
The album wraps up with “Good Days,” a track that expresses moving on from the past and focusing on the “good days” ahead. The final song, “Forgiveness,” reaffirms SZA’s newfound confidence in herself.
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SZA is not afraid to show listeners every spectrum of her breakup. Her mixed feelings are something that can resonate with everyone who has gone through a negative relationship. Rather than presenting one sure outcome, SZA leaves us wondering what her next move is. Will she move on? Or will her want for validation from her ex draw her back in? This conflict is what makes the album so alluring. We look to music for comfort from those who manifest how we are feeling, and SZA manifests all those emotions, even ones that are difficult to admit.