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Κυριακή, 27 Νοεμβρίου, 2022
ΑρχικήEnglish EditionCultureSZA's R&B music universe

SZA’s R&B music universe

By Socratis Santik Oglou,

SZA is one of the most well-known R&B female singer-songwriters in the music industry, but more essential than that, her music is original, her voice is distinctive, and her background is unexpectedly interesting.

Starting with a bit of her life background, SZA is a New Jersey native who currently is 32 years old. Her real name is actually Solána Rowe. Her parents are thriving entrepreneurs, with her mother working as an executive accountant at AT&T, while her father was a CNN executive producer. Before she started her music career, when she was in the ninth grade, SZA had been practicing gymnastics since she was a young girl and had also won national competitions. SZA grew up in a highly traditional environment; her mother practiced Christianity, but gave her husband power over the family’s religious activities. Her father is an orthodox Muslim.

Prior to the September 11th attacks, SZA went to both a public and a Muslim school and covered her head with a hijab. SZA was going to middle school at the time of the attacks, and she stopped wearing her hijab there to avoid being bullied. Later, in high school, she went back to wearing her hijab. SZA discussed in various interviews how the absence of images, false idols, rituals, and other distractions in the Muslim lifestyle comforts her. At the same time, she also has stated that she will probably go back to wearing a hijab at some point in the future because exactly of the clarity the religion provides her over periods she is under pressure.

Image source: pitchfork.com

Before graduating college, she attended three different colleges. She was working toward a degree in marine biology, but the academic environment did not really suit her. SZA has spoken about her struggles with drugs while in college, and her inability to maintain her academic standards.

Now onto how she started her music career, in fact, a friend of hers was performing in a Kendrick Lamar concert and SZA was working at the merchandise table, back in 2011. At the same time, the co-president of Top Dawg Entertainment happened to be nearby when one of the SZA’s early recordings was being played. He enquired about the music playing and ended up staying in touch with SZA for a while before signing her as the label’s first female artist. She would self-release two EPs in the interim, developing a modest fan base and winning praise in the process.

The ten-track titled “Z” was SZA’s debut EP and actually was recorded in her home with assistance from her friends. Beats from YouTube videos make up a large portion of the EP. At the time, SZA lacked professional vocal instruction and, as a result of her strict upbringing, her family only ever exposed her to music without words, primarily works by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Bjork, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other modern 2000s musicians were among the many artists she had listened to and was inspired by.

“Ctrl” (Deluxe) album cover. Image Credits: RCA Records/Press. Image source: nme.com

Top Dawg Entertainment announced that SZA would be their newest artist signing, following her recent label signing and collaboration with artists like Kendrick Lamar, SZA’s upcoming EP “Z” will be her longest and most developed album to date, in 40 minutes long and featuring ten tracks.

Because it was SZA’s major label debut, there was more on the line even though she had access to a whole new level of resources and support. Nevertheless, she managed to live up to expectations despite the strain. Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, and more all contributed to the recording process. Mac Miller and other producers worked on the album’s creation.

The EP showcases a range of styles, including modern R&B, neo-soul, and hip hop, and has guitar work throughout the album. With the support of the label and an outstanding roster of contributors, the EP made it to the Billboard Top 40. Without any live instrumental accompaniment, the majority of the album is made synthetically. The album’s vocals, which are heavily emphasized by SZA, are put through a variety of effects to give the music a sluggish, somber feel. In the lyrics, we examine the risky modern romance nostalgia, sexuality, and desertion. Even though SZA is six years older than the New Zealand singer Lorde, these issues have led to comparisons between the two artists. SZA chose not to release another EP after “Z”‘s popularity and instead got to work on her debut album.

SZA in “Good Days” music video clip. Image source: russh.com

Meanwhile, she penned songs for some of the biggest female musicians in the business, such as Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, and Rihanna, and toured the United States with Jhene Aiko. She appeared on Rihanna’s eighth album, “Anti”, and she also gave a performance at the 2016 Brit Awards. In June 2017, SZA issued her debut album, “Ctrl”. Without a question, her work on “Ctrl” is her most developed and mature work at the moment. Once more, she experimented with electronic and hip-hop ideas within mostly R&B sounds and combined numerous genres. Like its predecessors, “Ctrl” is reflective and careful. Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar are among the musicians who worked with her on the record.

Time Magazine and the New York Daily News named the album the greatest album of the year, and it garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. Even more outlets, including Pitchfork, NPR, and Billboard, picked it as the second-best album of the year. In 2017, SZA received five Grammy nominations, including those for Best New Artist and Best R&B performance. Additionally, her song “Broken Clocks” was included in President Obama’s selection of his top songs of 2017.

Solána Rowe, aka SZA, released one of 2017’s most anticipated albums on Friday. Courtesy of the artist. Image source: npr.org

Following the success of “Ctrl”,  her next big move was to work with Kendrick Lamar once more on the “Black Panther” soundtrack album. The result was the song “All the Stars”, which has since received over 500 million Spotify streams and peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, making it her highest charting song to date. Later on, she released more collaborations but more singles too. She released her top-charting song “Good Days” which ranked top on various music charts like Billboard Hot 100, and her song “I Hate You” had a huge success too white it became famous on TikTok. These two songs consist of part of her upcoming, long-anticipated album.

SZA’s phenomenal success is the result of a number of various elements, but her songwriting is undoubtedly the most recognizable and significant one. Many R&B songs do not really strive to push the envelope. Cliché lyrics and topics are typical of the genre. However, SZA crafts songs that take us inside her head and appeal to a generation of listeners who find her music energizing and rejuvenating. However, SZA’s career might end just as quickly as it began. In an interview from last year, she declared that her upcoming disc would be both her best and final. She claims that the music business is too stressful and that she no longer wants to be a part of it.

There is plenty of SZA music already available to us to keep us entertained for a very long time. While the singer’s musicality seems natural despite being intricately produced and well-layered, her sophisticated and personal poetry captures the spirit of our generation. You can listen to the finished product’s music consciously or unintentionally. Whether or whether SZA decides to retire, she has already made a significant impact on the music business that will not be forgotten any time soon. Her cerebral artistry and delicacy are unmatched.

  • CTRL, pitchfork.com, Available here
  • SZA, biography.com, Available here
  • SZA Biography by Andy Kellman, all music.com, Available here
  • The best albums of 2017, No3: SZA-CTRL, thegaurdian.com, Available here



Socratis Santik Oglou Β' Αρχισυντάκτης English Edition
Born and raised in Greece, he studies at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, at the department of Communication, Media & Culture, with a specialty at Cultural Management. He loves art, architecture, and old films. In life, he has not settled down but, he is open to everything that life brings.