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And once again, she welcomes us all to join her.
By Natalie Michie
Date December 9, 2022
Cancel your weekend plans, there’s been an emergency. SZA released her latest album, SOS, and it urgently calls for a days-long marathon of crying in solitude. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
Released on December 9, the record comes five years after her era-defining debut album CTRL. Exploring topics like self-worth, femininity and growing up, the 2017 Grammy-nominated project established SZA’s reputation for radical vulnerability. Half a decade later, the artist is still hitting us where it hurts with her all-too-accurate, brutally honest introspection. Who needs holiday cheer, anyway?
With SOS, it seems the songstress has decided to close out the year in a characteristically chaotic way: by messing with all of our emotions. Her newly released 23-track project is yet another ode to muddled feelings, with lyrics about body image, being misunderstood and (theoretically?) killing an ex. Clearly, SZA is not here to give us a party playlist — she’s here to make us sob.
In true SZA form, the genre-blurring record features more weep-worthy ballads than danceable bops. It pays homage to slightly unhinged — yet objectively iconic — fictional women in pop culture, with titles like “Kill Bill” and “Gone Girl.” It tackles self-comparison on “Far” — “Lately, I feel less cool than before” — and destructive thoughts on “F2F” — “I hate me enough for the two of us.” Above all, listening to SOS is akin to receiving an emotional gut punch. And with that, she gave the people what we needed!
In 2022, there is an undeniable appetite for open expressions of gloominess. With the rise of “sad” beauty aesthetics and TikTok’s romanticization of notoriously glum figures like Lana Del Rey, we’re in an age of embracing emotional instability. And while this trend may be widely deemed a “sad girl” trope, it transcends gender altogether. First and foremost, it’s about embracing unhappiness when you need to. Ultimately, no one embodies that quite like SZA.
With ample critical success under her belt, some find it shocking that the superstar still struggles with not feeling worthy. But that’s the magic of her stream-of-consciousness songwriting: She shows that self-love is a complicated, non-linear process filled with growing pains. In other words: There are layers to this sadness.
This isn’t amateur hour, after all. SZA makes music for those who are experienced in ennui. And that representation matters! While music legends Beyoncé and Taylor Swift have gifted the world with upbeat albums in recent months, SZA has offered us something we may have needed even more: a tracklist for revelling in sorrow.
Is it the healthiest way to cope with your emotions? Perhaps not. But sometimes nothing feels better than being a little bleak. SOS gives us that permission, and so much more. It supplies a soundtrack to re-evaluate your self-esteem. It encourages self-destructive behaviours like texting an ex. Not to mention, it’s the perfect playlist for putting your speaker on full blast, taking a scalding hot shower and dissolving into a puddle of tears on a Friday night. Hypothetically.
SOS makes one thing clear: SZA is still in her sad girl era. And once again, she welcomes us all to join her.