If hell is other people, then heaven is missing them. As messy as our breakups, fallouts and moral scuffles can be, at least we know we care enough to think about those friends and partners we’ve lost. That’s clarity, maybe. Peace. We’re in love with a memory. We can reshape those relationships to suit who we are now. And now. And perhaps after a sad wank. On her second album, SZA builds herself up so high, she scrapes the clouds, like an island volcano about to vomit with rage. SOS is an affirmation of loneliness, of hurled phones and me-time in the bath, and sounds like a woman finally ready to conquer us all.
She’s hardly been missing, but five years have passed since the beloved CNTRL. We’ve heard SZA with The Weeknd, Khaled, Doja Cat and Cardi B, pretty much always being the best guest on anything, and she performed for pandemic relief in 2020, giving the craggy ass that is Jon Bon Jovi’s voice a reason to hide in the green room. Sporadic singles, of course, like ‘Good Days’ and ‘Shirt’, but no grand return. Just more hearsay and wrangling at Top Dawg. The label might be to blame. If it isn’t, that actually makes more sense, because SZA has always been mildly surprised at what she’s done with her life so far and that people enjoy it. In interview after interview, she comes across as a goofball, the girl who wandered into music from her mates’ encouragement, and then, oopsie daisy, found a Grammy in her hands. As confrontational as her lyrics can be, she’s one of the most relatable r’n’b starlets we have: somebody who wants to watch Narcos with gin, chats to Hot 97 from her duvet, and uses words like “regular degular schmegular.” If she’d gone all in on being a superstar, that would’ve been the weird move; she’s been talking up quitting the music biz altogether for half a decade.