Lucy Yan, Staff Writer

“Cause I just wanna be myself, without any expectations. And the best way to do that is to keep shapeshifting aggressively and often – sonically and otherwise,” states R&B goddess, Solána Imani Rowe, known as “SZA,” while reflecting on her recently released second studio album, SOS. This concept of oscillating or “shapeshifting” as the artist herself describes it, is evident across the considerably lengthy twenty-three song album, where the songs shift into different moods. The lyrical manifestation of SZA’s cluttered mentality is far from messy as she masterfully exults her varying emotions  throughout the album. 

Through a morse code distress signal, the namesake of the album is revealed within the boisterous opening of the album, which creates an auditory renaissance for the listener and pulls attention to the desperation of SZA’s “I just want what’s mine,” and the sounds of release and resignation in her voice. The title track is followed by “Kill Bill,” a vindicating anthem which fantasizes about killing an ex and their new girlfriend, which became an instant fan favorite and jumped to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100. The album continues in the realm of vindication and revenge with “Seek and Destroy” and “Low,” then shifts to a sultry tone with “Love Language,” and then becomes introspective with the subsequent five tracks, “Blind,” “Used,” “Snooze,” “Notice Me” and “Gone Girl,” each with their own message about connections with other people. For example, “Gone Girl,” ponders whether it is worth continuing her pursuit of someone who seems to be pulling away.

A sort of intermission in the album occurs with “Smoking on my Ex Pack,” a more upbeat song that is reminiscent of “Low,” from earlier in the album. This shifts abruptly, retaining the consumer’s attention with “Ghost in the Machine,” a melody that reminisces on whether or not she can maintain a casual relationship, and features Phoebe Bridgers. The piece utilizes a multi-dimensional sound and incorporates the two artists’ complementary voices. “F2F” is next, an anthem which grapples with being stuck on a former love interest while engaging with other partners, and then comes “Nobody Gets Me,” which leads to a pattern of more poignant tracks followed by emotional ballad-type tunes. This continues with “Conceited” and “Special,” and “Too Late” and “Far.” 

Despite the large amount of shapeshifting throughout SZA’s revolutionary new album, the overall theme remains the same throughout the many songs. Indeed, it is the overarching messages of her music has led to SZA’s popularity, as her relatable tunes hit home for her young adult, and mostly female, audience. For instance, in a featured song, “Used,” the wording cuts deep with dimension and meaning, saying, “Can’t lose myself to your ego I wanna say, loved me better when you tried less, I don’t take much just need your honesty,” recounting how a relationship should be even and avoid having one person reliant on the other, especially when the other relies on falsehoods – a message many can relate to. SZA utilizes fluctuating lyrical emotion by contrasting her instrumentals, as well as the listening order of the record, to create a beautiful lineup that enriches the listener’s experience. For me, SZA does so many things right with SOS that anything wrong I am already “Blind” to.