The summer of 2017 was a good one for Solána Imani Rowe – AKA SZA. Her debut major label album Ctrl had just dropped, was peaking in charts across the board, and she had racked up a healthy heap of critical acclaim, and five Grammy nominations. When she didn’t win a single one, her fans rose up with a snake-like backlash, and SZA took a couple of steps back to recalibrate.
That was in 2018. I’ll be quick to add that it was just the Grammy’s that put a spanner in the works. Ctrl landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart and is certified 2x Platinum. She scooped the 2018 Billboard Women in Music Rule Breaker, BET Award for Best New Artist, and Billboard Music Award for Top R&B Female Artist. She even wrote and performed on Rihanna’s 2016 single “Consideration”, and co-penned Kendrick Lamar’s “All The Stars” for the Black Panther soundtrack. SZA’s done pretty damn well for herself thus far, she just needed a breather.
Cut to September 2020 and that breather came to an end, after an unfortunate series of vocal cord injuries and label delays, with the release, “Hit Different” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. She also pulled up the director’s chair for the internet-breaking accompanying music video: a slickly choreographed compilation of shapes cut in junkyards and on top of stacked hay bales. SZA oozes sexual confidence, while the track itself is a languid ode to tainted love.
Christmas Day saw her surprise fans with a sneaky release of “Good Days”, which came along with a simplified and sultry lyric video. It’s light-footed and percussive, following an ambient chill of a trajectory. She had previously released the track in a bedroom acoustic version of both “Good Days” and “Hit Different” – replete in lo-fi synth and vocal prowess.
There’s no denying that SZA is one of the redefining voices of the modern contemporary scene. She’s got a brand new Cosmo cover story, a fresh album revving for release, and hey – Grammy or no Grammy – she’s still the longest-Billboard-charting debut album ever by a black female artist. And I can see her keeping it that way.