SOS Album Review

Was it worth the five year wait?


Wikimedia commons/Mezzabottac

Inspired by the 1997 image of Princess Diana on a yacht just one week before her death, SOS depicts SZA in her most isolated and intimate moments.

     It’s been 5 years since SZA released her debut album CTRL. Since her debut, fans have long awaited the singer-songwriter’s sophomore album. In the five years since CTRL’s release, SZA’s been really busy. She worked with Kendrick Lamar on the Black Panther track “All The Stars”, and she teamed up with hit sensation Doja Cat for the song of the summer “Kiss Me More.” More recently, SZA gave fans a sneak peak of her new album with tracks like “Good Days” and “Shirt.” Now, SOS is here and SZA’s back and reminding listeners that she’s the one. Inspired by the 1997 image of Princess Diana on a yacht just one week before her death, SOS depicts SZA in her most isolated and intimate moments. Here’s an analysis of the long awaited, 23 track SOS:


     SOS opens with a distress message in morse code. The titular track touches on themes that are seen throughout the album: insecurities, confidence, self-doubt, and heartbreak. The track is SZA and SZA only. She reminds listeners “Ain’t no writers, that’s just me.” The explosive first track closes with an interpolation of Beyoncé’s 2006 hit from Dreamgirls. SZA makes it her own with “And I cried and cried/Said what’s on my mind.”

    “Kill Bill”

     Inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film, SZA fantasizes about killing her ex, although it might not be the best idea. With a lullaby melody, SZA rants that if she can’t have her ex, then no one can. 

     “Seek & Destroy”:

     In the third track, SZA sings about her newly found freedom after leaving a toxic relationship. In the song, she speaks to an imaginary lover who has pushed her past her own capacity. Although she has ruined everything in this relationship, in order to find peace, she can’t help but to admit, “I hate to do it to you.”


     Supported by backing vocals from Travis Scott, SZA sinks into her lower register while singing about keeping things on the low. She needs her privacy and wants everyone out of her business. We see confident, cool SZA on this track. 

     “Love Language”:

     The singer proclaims her need for communication and transparency in her relationship. She longs to understand and connect with her partner in their love language. SZA’s determined to fix the relationship with the one she loves the most, singing “You the definition of my right hand/Never mind ridin’ backseat when you lead me.” 


     Teased in the music video for “Shirt” just weeks before its release, “Blind” is a sultry track about being blind to the things around you. Specifically, SZA breakdowns about all of the love she seeks. She attempts to find this love by going back to her ex even though he only validates her. SZA knows that her needs are embarrassing, but she can’t even see past it. 

     “Used (feat. Don Toliver)”:

     On track 7, SZA expresses her familiarity with being used. She’s contemplative and ruminative, “Can you tell if it’s even worth conversation?/Hit a prayer, do it even work?” Don Toliver slides in for the chorus, providing listeners with his cool flow on a SZA-like beat. SZA closes out verse 2 with her own piece of advice, “Love will work better when you confess/Feelings don’t need discussion.”


     On the eight track of the album SZA is “just tryna be your everything.” The song starts off as a love song. SZA proclaims all the things she’s willing to do for her lover, “I’ll touch that fire for you/I do that three, four times again, I testify for you.” By the bridge, everything has seemingly changed. SZA’s doubtful of her lover’s intentions. She questions, “How you frontin’ on me and I’m the main one tryin’?/How you blame it on me and you the main one lyin’?” 

     “Notice Me”:

     SZA’s not a fan of labels. “Notice Me” is one of the most honest tracks on the album. She sings “I don’t wanna be your girlfriend/I’m just tryna be your person.” She’s tired of relationships and just wants to be there for her ride or die. She knows that, “Either way I’m bustin’ through tonight with you.”

     “Gone Girl”:

     The psychological thriller starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike takes center stage in track 10. SZA takes on the persona of protagonist Amy Dunne;She longs to escape and just wants “space and security.” Once again, listeners find themselves with an honest SZA who’s “tryna grow without hatin’ the process.”

     “Smoking on my Ex Pack”:

     On track 11, SZA proudly shows off her confidence. She’s independent and over her ex. She’s even ignoring the guys who want her,telling them “I got your favorite rapper blocked/Your favorite athlete screamin’, ‘Text me back’.” By the end of the song, SZA brushes off the haters with a casual diss:“You hatin’ from nosebleeds, I wish you well.”

     “Ghost in the Machine (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)” :

     Chaos ensued all over social media when SZA announced her collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers. With a Phoebe-like alternative melody mixed with SZA’s alluring vocals, “Ghost in the Machine” ponders humanity and transparency. In the chorus, SZA sings, “I need humanity/Y’all lack humanity, drowning in vanity/Craving humanity.” On verse 3, Phoebe calls out the disloyalty she’s faced due to her rising popularity, singing “You said all of my friends are on my payroll/You’re not wrong.”


     SZA takes on pop rock? On “F2F,” listeners can find SZA channeling the likes of Avril Lavigne and Paramore, with lyrics provided by her best friend and Grammy winning artist, Lizzo. On the track, SZA misses her ex and is willing to do anything to replace the feeling. SZA even hates herself for it:  “I hate me enough for the two of us/Hate that I can’t let go of you enough.” She finds herself aching to fill the emptiness her ex left behind, singing “I’m lookin’ for comfort.”

     “Nobody Gets Me”:

     Teased four days before SOS’s release, “Nobody Gets Me” finds SZA, once again, missing her ex. She doesn’t want her ex to move on and fears nobody will understand her in the same way. In the ballad, she sings, “How am I supposed to tell you/I don’t wanna see you with anyone but me?/Nobody gets me like you.” The song is rumored to be about her ex-fiancé, whom she was with for 11 years.


     On track 15, SZA is confident and is not asking for your opinion. She’s self-assured and over the drama. “I got everything and I’m livin’ all for rеvenge/I been burnin’ bridges, I’d do it ovеr again.” She’s dependent on herself and maybe even a little conceited. 


     SZA’s regretful and hates the changes she’s made to please a no good guy. She’s tired of being treated like an ordinary girl and wishes she still felt special. “I don’t wanna see you, why’d you have to treat me/Like I was an ordinary girl?/I wish I was special.” This song is the converse of the CTRL classic “Normal Girl,” in which she sings, “I wish I was a normal girl.”

     “Too Late”: 

     SZA questions if it’s too late for her and her ex to rekindle their relationship. She’s aware of the danger that this relationship brings, singing “We both scared of love/Movin’ so close, we combust/Is it bad that I want more?” She longs for someone to fill the void. In the outro of “Too Late,” SZA provides listeners with an all too familiar sentiment, “I just wanna be loved.” 


    In “Far,” SZA’s dealing with a lot of rejection. She’s put her feelings on layaway and is tired of being used and playing stupid. She’s at the point where she doesn’t even recognize herself. With a laid back melody and relaxed vocals, SZA sings, “Far, far ’cause I let you define me/I’m far, far ’cause I can’t trust nobody/Far, stay far, so far.”


     SZA first teased “Shirt” at the end of 2020 after the song went viral on TikTok. It was later previewed in the March 2021 music video for “Good Days.” It was officially released on October 28, 2022. The song focuses on all the complex feelings that come with loving someone. SZA questions if things are really supposed to feel this way, asking “How I’m ‘posed to trust, baby? ‘Posed to love?/It ain’t ‘posed to hurt this way.” She knows love is supposed to be liberating and light hearted but she’s “in the dark right now.”

     “Open Arms (feat. Travis Scott)”: 

     “Love Galore” part 2? “Open Arms” marks the fifth collaboration between SZA and Travis Scott. The track is a love song about wanting to be with someone for eternity. In the chorus, SZA proclaims, “I’m so devoted to you, to you, to you.” Scott comes in for verse 3. His verse is smooth and lyrical, a change of style for the fast-paced rapper. Listeners find Scott with a lover who sees all of him, expressing that they “Drew my favorite color, now you seein’ every shade of me.”

     “I Hate U”: 

     “I Hate U” was first released on SZA’s Soundcloud in August of 2021 and later released on streaming platforms in December. On the track, SZA’s tired of the contradictions. She’s reminiscent, done with being treated badly, and over the arguments. She’s letting everyone know that “ if you wonder if I hate you (I do).” 

     “Good Days”: 

     SZA’s ready to heal on “Good Days.” Released nearly two years before SOS’s debut, “Good Days” is about forgetting the past and living in the present. SZA is trying to get her mind right and free herself from the shackles holding her down. She’s even ready to let go of her ex, announcing “I don’t miss no ex, I don’t miss no text/I choose not to respond.” 

     “Forgiveless (feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard)”:

     SOS comes to a close with track 23, featuring vocals from Wu-Tang Clan member, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. SZA sings about letting go of those who have done her wrong. She’s healed from her previous traumas and knows she’ll be protected by those around her. The track closes the album on a positive note; SZA’s moving on, singing “Not in the dark anymore/I might forgive it, I won’t forget it.”

     In all, SOS is an hour-long oasis of feelings and thoughts. SZA is melancholic, wrathful, nostalgic, impulsive, and confident all at once. This vast emotional ocean is relatable. The bitterness and sadness that surfaces after a tumultuous breakup, the confidence and freedom of the rebound, and the sleepless nights caused by the fear that nobody will understand you in the same way. Although it’s the antithesis of its preceding album, SOS still exemplifies SZA’s once in a lifetime talents. 

     SOS is now available on streaming and for purchase.