SZA’s Isolation and Vulnerability Glisten on her new album, “SOS”

By Kyler Jacobson, Staff Writer

Kyler Jacobson

With her second album ‘SOS’, SZA explores the themes of self-doubt, insecurity, and breaking free from a destructive relationship. 

She begins the album with ‘SOS’, a two-minute intro that conveys everything she’ll discuss on this album. On the track, she delivers it in a way that sounds as if she’s crying for help, as “SOS” stands for “Save Our Ship”, which is morse code for a ship in distress—naming the album after this distressing acronym exhibits how SZA wishes for people to hear and empathize with her internal struggles and relationship problems. 

The fan-favorite song, “Kill Bill”, follows, when she metaphorically becomes the main character of the trilogy of the “Kill Bill” movies, an assassin who ended her killing spree with her ex, Bill. 

Two of my personal favorite songs on the album, “Seek & Destroy” and “Low”, follow the last track, while also transitioning right into each other. “Seek & Destroy” discusses the destructive extent of love. Even with the feeling of being the reason for this destruction, a sense of freedom comes when you escape that destructive relationship. “Low” arrives with some of the deep trap beats SZA introduced into her discography with this album, with Travis Scott adlibs included. 

On track six of the album, “Blind”, SZA speaks of being unable to see all of the good qualities that one contains within themselves due to past relationships and experiences that have left her in a lost predicament. The chorus of this song is one of the most vocally beautiful moments in SZA’s career, which juxtapose the dispiriting words spoken in the verses.

“Gone Girl” continues SZA’s pop culture references that show throughout the album, as she sings about the themes present in the movie, such as neglect, relationships, and infidelity. The transition from the bridge to the final chorus brings a satisfyingly compelling end to one of the strongest-written songs on the album. “Smoking on my Ex Pack” follows and brings along with it a style of music that many listeners of SZA wouldn’t expect, rap. With mentions of “your favorite rapper being blocked” and many other callouts, SZA proves that she can strongly stand alongside the rising stars of female rap. 

The standout track of the album, “Ghost in the Machine” featuring Phoebe Bridgers, inserts itself into the album, midway through. SZA talks through her feelings of her inability to be a human and how she needs “that person” to remind her of what humanity is, alongside all of the disasters and feelings that attach to it. Phoebe enters the track beautifully towards the final lines of the song, contributing to SZA’s conversation with her own point of view of struggling to deal with the overbearing burdens that come with touring and how that affects her relationships. 

More production experimentation is introduced on this album, with the thirteenth track, titled ‘F2F’. With this song, she shows her inability to get over her ex-lover by chasing after others to fulfill her needs, which her ex has left unattended. The rock instrumental greatly shows the anger and unhappiness she feels with the realities of her relationship. 

SZA presented twenty-three new songs with the album, after five full years without one released. Even for those that won’t relate to her personal struggles, it’s an album filled with some new territory for SZA and it’s already proven to be an interesting listening experience.