When “CTRL” was released in 2016, SZA was not only hailed as one of the best R&B artists of her time, but the album itself is considered one of the best of the decade. However, fans were left with very little to enjoy afterward as she only released a string of singles and features during her five-year hiatus.
Finally, on Dec. 9, fans were able to rejoice with the release of her sophomore LP “SOS.”
Just three out of the album's 23 tracks were previously released, "I Hate U," "Good Days," and "Shirt," leaving fans with 20 brand new tracks to immerse in.
The content of this album is not too far off from her debut; SZA's growth in her delivery is blatant.
Right out of the gates on the title track “SOS,” produced by Jay Versace, SZA comes out hot and full of energy, introducing the listeners to the album. Though it will probably not be a memorable song when compared to the other 22 tracks, this song instantly tells fans that this will be nothing like her previous work.
Many tracks on this album reveal SZA’s wide range of talent as she taps in and out of different genres. While she is synonymous for her alternative-lofi sound, she occasionally tries new sounds like the alternative track “F2F” or “Nobody Gets Me.”
In addition to the variety of sounds, the pacing constantly changes throughout the album, which allows the long-winded project to be easily digestible.
There are plenty of callbacks to her previous album “CTRL,” especially the song “Special,” which is used as a foil to her older song “Normal Girl.”
"Hate how you look at her 'cause you never saw me / Like I was an art piece, like I was an ordinary girl."
Lyrically, the album is chock full of memorable lines, hooks, and verses that display her improvement in penmanship. Songs like “Kill Bill,” “Snooze,” and “Smoking on my Ex Pack” are some great examples of this.
Finally, the production quality and mixing are perfect thanks to producers including The Neptunes, Babyface, DJ Dahi, Benny Blanco, and longtime collaborator Carter Lang.
Standing on their own, there is not a single bad song on this album. However, it is hard to avoid the length of this album, which is the only factor that can debase “SOS.” Though the sporadic pacing allows the listener to stay in tune, it hurts the album conceptually, as not every track works cohesively.
Previous albums like “CTRL” and her mixtapes are much tighter when it comes to the concept.
Also, it is not a knock, but the only true standout feature was Phoebe Bridgers. Travis Scott, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Don Toliver did not underperform, but they did not give the same effect as Bridgers. It was also slightly disappointing to miss out on an Isaiah Rashad feature since they have been partners for years, but that will hopefully be fixed on the upcoming deluxe album.
It is hard to complain about this album. Without a doubt, it was worth the wait, and it is nice to see an artist take time to perfect their craft.
The project was able to capture the intimacy and isolation that SZA has been feeling in her life from the songs, morse code sound effects, and the album cover, which references the late Princess Diana.
Time will only tell if this album will become a favorite over “CTRL,” but the fact that there is a conversation demonstrates how spectacular this project is. It is exciting to see that TDE seems to be breathing life as not only SZA, but her bandmates have released projects or are rumored to.
Still one of the best, if not the best R&B artists of her era, SZA continues to prove she is a star.
I would rate "SOS" a 9 out of 10.
"Smoking on my Ex Pack"