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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Is This Thing On?: SZA, playing in the boys' court

A few years ago, the Daily reviewed SZA’s first album debut, "Z" (2014), claiming that if it were "a smidge more inviting, SZA would have something special on her hands." Now, I don't know if the St. Louis native has become any softer in her style, but her sophomore album, "Ctrl" (2017), is certainly something special. Sharpening up from the hazy, dreamlike quality of her first album, SZA has begun to fill out a more complex sound. Oh, and did I mention she's a total badass?

SZA is playing in the boys' court, and I’d say she’s doing a pretty damn good job. As the only female artist signed to Top Dog Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q), SZA continually redefines what it means to be a woman in the music industry.

First off, she's taking a stab at stereotypes. Often we see male artists rapping about this concept of a “side chick,” and the struggle to keep these paramours hidden. I think Ty Dolla $ign said it best when he sang, “I see two of my b------ in the club / And I know they know about each other.” SZA turns this on its head in “The Weekend,” where she speaks from the point of view of the "other girl." She's empowered by the fact that she knows about the other women in her boyfriend's life, and she's completely fine with that.

In regards to stereotypes in dating, SZA said in an interview, "Women just are supposed to do nothing but, like, cry and feel weird.” She explains this song as a way of taking power back and feeling confident. Calvin Harris just did a Funk Wav remix for the song, if you’re into the Carnival cruise/darty vibe.The artwork on this single is a rendition of Matisse's "The Dance" (1909), except I think the dancing figures are all of the so-called girlfriends. I feel like this is sort of the oil-painting equivalent of putting all your exes in a group chat? Could be fun!

On "Doves In The Wind" with Kendrick Lamar, SZA deliberately identifies the control that women can have over men with their sexuality, but because they use a certain "P-word" 28 times, I won't be able to articulate much more here.

Despite her strong female voice, I’ve noticed that some of SZA's biggest successes have been collaborations with male singers, like Lamar in “All The Stars" and Travis Scott in “Love Galore," which each have roughly 100,000 more plays than her solo songs, according to Spotify. Speaking of features, she's scored some pretty sweet deals over the years, including Maroon 5, Lorde, Rihanna and Chance the Rapper. 

But like most newer artists, SZA uses samples often in her work. For the background of “Love Galore,” she interpolates Sonnymoon’s cover of “Houstalantavegas”which comes from one of Drake's first mixtapes in 2009.SZA describes this cheeky track as "a relaxed tropical bop" where she toys with a former lover. To this she said, “I’m a scorpio.” Honey, me too. Check out some of SZA's best on Spotify and add your faves!