Review: SZA’s latest album ‘SOS’ is the lifeboat we all needed


Photo credit: Promotional poster by Top Dawg Entertainment and RCA Records

Singer SZA sits on a diving board, looking up and wearing a hockey jersey in the middle of the ocean. This album cover references a famous photo of Princess Diana as she sat on a diving board gazing out to the ocean. SZA dropped her new album, “SOS,” Dec. 9, 2022. Photo Source: Image from Official SZA Site.

By Nina Sperling, Senior Reporter

Disclaimer: “SOS” may not be appropriate for younger audiences, as it contains explicit language and references sexual themes.

SZA‘s songs such as “Kill Bill” and “Blind” have gained mass popularity on Instagram and TikTok, but her latest album, “SOS,” is so much more than the viral clips of her songs. SZA released the 23-track album Dec. 9, 2022. 

The “SOS” album cover features SZA wearing a hockey jersey and sitting on a diving board, gazing out into the ocean. The cover is a recreation of a famous photo of Princess Diana, not long before her death in 1997. Like SZA, Princess Diana sits alone on a diving board with only the ocean surrounding her. 

In an interview on WQHT, SZA said she chose to re-create the image “because I just loved how she isolated she felt, and that was what I wanted to convey the most.”

In “SOS,” SZA takes listeners on an emotional journey, from a call for help and revenge in the earlier tracks to loneliness and finally self-acceptance and melancholy in the last tracks. As written in a Billboard article, “SZA embarked on a fearless sonic voyage, dipping her toes in gospel, grunge, rap and whatever else she fancied outside of R&B’s boundaries.”

Beyond “SOS’s” musical elements, I enjoy listening to the album because of SZA’s soulful voice. When I went to see her “SOS” tour concert at the Kia Forum March 23, I loved seeing the audience’s connection to her music as they belted out each song.  

Playing on the origin of the term “SOS,” SZA includes the SOS Morse code distress call, a signal for help, in the opening seconds of “SOS.” The “SOS” signal is a great way to preface the deep emotions conveyed throughout the album. “SOS” is also SZA’s nickname, a shortening of her legal name, Solana Rowe, connoting that “SOS” is a deeply personal album for her. 

Listeners have deeply connected to each track, as they have brought “SOS” to the Billboard Top 100 list. In a Rolling Stone article, SZA said, “This album was partially inspired by love lost, but mostly inspired by my departure from attempting to be a nice girl …coming to terms with that and really expanding upon that and exploring that is kind of like this new chapter in my life.” 

Kill Bill” is one of SZA’s biggest hits, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 List. In the song, SZA fantasizes about getting revenge on an ex-boyfriend by killing him and his new girlfriend. The title references the two part martial arts film of the same name about a woman who seeks revenge on her ex-boyfriend through murder.

SZA sings, “I might kill my ex/ I still love him though/ rather be in jail than alone.” She would rather face consequences for her actions than be without the people she loves, even if the consequence is jail. Although committing murder is not the best idea and illegal, I related to the underlying message of doing whatever it takes for love. 

Nobody Gets Me” is the most emotional and personal track on the album.  The song sounds very different from any others of SZA’s. It is a slower ballad that combines alternative rock, country and contemporary folk and expresses ideas of heartbreak and loneliness. 

She sings, “How am I supposed to let you go?/ Only like myself when I’m with you/ Nobody gets me, you do.” I empathize with SZA and connect to the idea that there is always one person, or a few people, who understand you more than anyone else. “Nobody Gets Me” definitely makes me grab the tissues. 

My favorite song in “SOS” is “Good Days.” Whenever I hear it, I am transported to summer, where the sun is shining and birds are chirping on a peaceful day. SZA wrote “Good Days” with singer, songwriter and producer Jacob Collier, who also provided unique and harmony-filled background vocals to the song. 

In “Good Days,” SZA aptly puts a “good day in my mind” with the ethereal and melancholy qualities of the song. She sings “Good day in my mind, safe to take a step out/ get some air now, let your edge out.” The lyrics remind me to take a deep breath when I am stressed and not dwell on the negative aspects of life. 

SZA is inspirational to me because she models self-acceptance and not complying with societal norms, despite having struggled with both in the past. In a Rolling Stone article, she said, I prefer that people don’t know what to make of me, anyway. ‘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.” 

Overall, the wide variety of genres and styles throughout “SOS” — combined with SZA’s vulnerability and soulfulness — made it a unique and compelling album. SZA more than deserves the critical acclaim and love from her fan base that she has received. 

  • Sound Quality
  • Lyrics
  • Enjoyment
  • Impact


“SOS” is rapper and singer SZA’s second album. She takes listeners on an emotional, relatable and personal voyage in the 23 tracks on the album, including revenge in “Kill Bill,” loneliness in “Nobody Gets Me” and melancholy in “Good Days.” SZA dips into a wide variety of genres including R&B, grunge, rap and alternative rock, which I hope will help “SOS” reach the wider audience it deserves to.