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‘SOS’ By SZA: Lyric Breakdowns & Deeper Meanings

SOS, the long-awaited sophomore album from SZA arrives in the eleventh hour of 2022, and is already breaking records.

The album artwork for SZA’s SOS.
Photo Credit: Daniel Sannwald

‘SOS’ Singles And Features 

Prior to the birth of SOS, the R&B vocalist delivered singles “Good Days,” “I Hate U,” and “Shirt.” The highly-anticipated body of work features rappers Travis Scott, Don Toliver, the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard and singer Phoebe Bridgers. Unexpectedly, the LP is jam-packed with 23 tracks venturing into country, rock and rap as well as alternative R&B. In the wake of a taxing heartbreak from a cheating ex-lover, the singer follows escape routes to avoid loneliness. 

Though SZA gives a confident boast at times, she indulges in self loathing and destructive behaviors on SOS. The “Broken Clocks” singer paints a clear picture of universal human emotions while navigating a crooked path toward self love. 

SZA’s Self Growth Since ‘Ctrl’ 

Indeed, SZA’s sophomore album reveals self growth and inner work since 2017’s Ctrl. Her five time grammy nominated debut album Ctrl, brought healing and comfort to millions. The brilliant songwriting on the project unveils the singer’s experience with heartbreak, insecurities, and struggles with self identity. 

Further, SZA or Solána Rowe, never quite felt she fit in, and faced internal struggles. As a Black woman growing up in New Jersey, she did not fit the European beauty standard mirrored in her entirely white community. Plus, she did not adhere to traditional ideals of femininity that society enforces on Black women. 


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Album Themes And Revelations

Trigger Warning: Body Dysmorphia

SZA lacks self worth and looks for outer validation on Ctrl, whereas SOS is a discovery and strenuous journey to self love. Importantly, SZA is self-assured and outspoken on title track “SOS,” “Conceited,” “Smokin on my Ex Pack” and “Forgiveless.” However in SOS, feelings of confidence and egotism come in waves. Until, SZA’s body dysmorphia and debilitating thoughts show up uninvited, leading her into a self loathing cycle. “I got pimples where my beauty marks should be / I got dry skin on my elbows and knees,” SZA sings on “Special.”

In the aftermath of heartbreak from her unfaithful ex, she feels a depletion of her uniqueness, self worth and confidence. In addition, SZA holds jealousy and envy, comparing herself to the girl in the Gucci store, who her ex would lust over. “Hate how you look at her ’cause you never saw me / Like I was an art piece, like I was an ordinary girl,” she sings. 

On the country-inspired “Nobody Gets Me,” SZA reflects on the time spent with her ex. The singer is lost in uncertainty, feeling as if his love is irreplaceable. “What’s left of you / How am I supposed to tell you / I don’t wanna see you with anyone but me? / Nobody gets me like you,” the singer-songwriter pleads. 

Deeper Meanings Behind The Songs

Moreover, SZA’s fear of her ex replacing her becomes a reality on the savage “Kill Bill.” In the alternative R&B and trip-hop track, SZA adopts the character Bill from the early 2000’s film series, Kill Bill. Bill crashes and sabotages his ex-girlfriend’s wedding after discovering she faked her death in order to escape him. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 concludes with Bill disclosing that his actions were a result of jealousy. “I might kill my ex, not the best idea / His new girlfriend’s next, how’d I get here? / I might kill my ex, I still love him, though / Rather be in jail than alone,” SZA fiercely writes. 

In order to forget about her ex, SZA engages in meaningless revenge sex on the most experimental track, “F2F.” Old Avril Lavigne came to mind on the first listen of this rock and grunge cut. Notably, Lizzo has writing credits on this anthemic electric-guitar-filled record. 

“Ghost In The Machine (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)”

SZA continues to fill a hollow heart and relieve her loneliness in “Ghost in the Machine.” She finds solace and escape by means of a temporary fling. Although the relationship is frivolous, SZA finds satisfaction in this authentic face-to-face connection. “I need humanity / You’re like humanity, drowning in vanity / Craving humanity,” she sings.

“Can you touch on me and not call me after? / Can you hate on me and mask it with laughter? / Can you lead me to the ark? What’s the password?” Likely referring to the biblical story “Noah’s Ark,” SZA wants them to lead her to ‘the ark’ in the midst of disaster and anxiety.

Even more, the alternative and indie record, which features Phoebe Bridgers, unleashes feelings of anger and frustration. “Ghost in the Machine” is an expression of dissatisfaction with the modern social media world or “the machine” and how it affects people. SZA despises the false facades, superficial values, and disingenuity of people. 

SZA Finds The Light

Lastly, the final track “Forgiveless” with Ol’ Dirty Bastard sees an unapologetic and bold SZA. Seemingly she has found her voice, and contrary to track 19 “Shirt,” she is “Not in the dark anymore.” Hopefully she continues to live in this light, validate herself, and recognize her worth. 

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