SZA
Z


3.6
great

Review

by Jacob R. STAFF
April 20th, 2014 | 49 replies


Release Date: 04/08/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Bring on the thorny crown

“It’s the beginning,” sings Solana Rowe in the final moments of Z, her debut album. Things sure are looking up for the artist known as SZA; interviews have made it clear she isn’t quite satisfied with her own portfolio just yet. It instead seems she’s preparing herself for a big landing with her next release, whenever that happens- a fact which initially casts Z in a less agreeable light. It’s inevitable to wonder, after all, that if SZA herself doesn’t feel ecstatic about the music she’s releasing, then who says her listeners will?

Thing is, the girl has high standards. The captivating fact she shared with culture magazine Mass Appeal speaks for itself, after all: Rowe measures her own success by whether or not her grandma has seen her on TV yet. She aims high with her music, and won’t head home until she gets what she wants- to be recognized for the songs she spends so much time on. In that case, Z is a precursor of sorts- a collection of songs that exists so that other, more formidable, ones can be written in the future. It’s an album designed to build SZA’s repertoire, to get her name out there so that when her day comes, we’ll have at least an inkling of a clue exactly who hit us.

This needn’t be interpreted to mean Z is anything unworthy of our attention. The record offers moments, candid and clear, of Rowe before the fame that'll surely head her way. It’s an opportunity to see what this artist is all about today, not next year- and on this release, the main topics come from love found and lost. In immediate standout “Hiiijack,” SZA’s flushed with desire; when “Green Mile” starts up, it’s the last thing she wants to feel. Lyrically, Z explores the emotions tethered to relationships, and the fact that, whether too strong or too sparing for the moment, they always seem to exist to the wrong degree. It’s a simple enough idea, and one the 23-year-old musician wears well. But while the lyrical themes here are relatable to anyone with a heart, their precise presentation leaves much room for ambiguity. Rowe’s vaguer musings are hard to latch onto (“Stationary, birds await; small canary, princess,”) and the more significant passages feel too straight-laced for the listener to intimately connect with (“Type A personality / extrovert, introvert, commonalities; a Type A personality / just dumb enough to lie to me”.) They're not bad lyrics by any means, and it helps matters that SZA delivers lines like these in an understated manner- they'd feel inadequate having a more prominent role here.

The magic on this release, though, it’s got more to do with the music behind the words. And coincidence this is not, considering SZA collaborated with a legion of fellow musicians here- looking to unanticipated sources for creative fuel. She procured Toro Y Moi, XXYYXX and Dae One for production duties on the release, as well as enlisting Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper for rap features- in other words, the singer’s marketing herself up rather nicely. More importantly, though, Rowe shows her true potential when she latches onto these big names. Nowhere else on Z are her recollections of heartbreak more poignant than when they’re preceded by Chance’s characteristically off-kilter contribution via “Child’s Play”- the two artists suit each other remarkably well. Similarly, Rowe’s voice reminds the listener why it’s so damned special the instant it tails Kendrick’s feature on “Babylon.” SZA’s croons are incessantly sugary-sweet- it’s just kind of easy to skim over that when our minds are back in Compton.

So if Z’s main mission is to build up its creator for a gargantuan full-length release in the near future, it’s serving its purpose rather well. After all, it’s hard to imagine such an album not absolutely killing it when considering the ridiculously high standards Rowe places on herself. If my grandparents were to get into any modern music group in April 2014, it’d probably be Future Islands; maybe by this time next year it’ll be SZA.




Recent reviews by this author
The Contortionist LanguageMaybeshewill Fair Youth
Fallujah The Flesh PrevailsEvery Time I Die From Parts Unknown
Baths Ocean DeathClosure in Moscow Pink Lemonade
user ratings (46)
Chart.
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Omaha
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


10269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

thank you www.sputnikmusic.com for confirming my rating on this, you guys rock

edit: nevermind, this is better than a 3.3 fuck y'all

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


20857 Comments


EP... 10 tracks... Does not compute.

Running time?

someguest
April 20th 2014


20865 Comments


GZA should sue.

Digging: Dexter Gordon - Our Man in Paris

LordePots
April 20th 2014


7402 Comments


feel like id like this

Digging: ODESZA - In Return

Gyromania
April 20th 2014


15941 Comments


i'm enjoying this so far

Digging: Lantlos - .neon

DropdeadWHA
April 20th 2014


652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review One question though- The Weeknd as a rec? Curious as to why, seen as this and Kiss Land sound nothing alike. They share a 'genre', and i say that very loosely.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


10269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

Thanks man- and I'd agree, for the styles aren't terribly similar. I made the recommendation based off the fact that I simply couldn't think of a better recommendation, so I may just remove that haha

This release has got some great singles, so check out the Soundcloud link in the review if you want a taste.

SnakeDelilah
April 20th 2014


7850 Comments


is she part of the wu-tang

Digging: Sun Kil Moon - Benji

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


10269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

you know what, i'd wager she probably is

robin
Emeritus
April 20th 2014


4249 Comments


EP?

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


10269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

Yeah man, I was under the impression this was a full album from her but multiple sources state it's just an EP

edit: or not? I edited my review because now it seems this is her debut album. thanks for bringing it up either way
man

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


3469 Comments


song you linked is ridiculously good and this is on soulseek so what the hell, might as well try it out. sweet rev, can give you a few mini-corrections if you wish :]

SharkTooth
April 20th 2014


5056 Comments


do we pronounce her name as 'the sizza'?

Digging: Fuzz - Fuzz

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


10269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

As long as you play a little gentle, Will, then I'd love some feedback- I haven't written about music in awhile, and I'm sure that fact shows in spots ;]

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


3469 Comments


sweet, here goes then

Rowe measures her own success by if her grandma has seen her on TV yet


should probably be "whether" not "if" since it sounds way better

Things sure aren’t winding down for the artist known as SZA

I get where you're going with this but like this is her debut album so kind of duh if you know what I mean haha

The captivating factoid she shared

I think you mean "fact" given that "factoid" means something presented as fact but without any sort of supporting evidence

The record offers moments, candid and clear, of Rowe when things are simpler for her as a person.

not entirely sure what this sentence means sorry :[
I mean you could say something like "of the Rowe of today" or something like that but it's unclear from that wording

In immediate standout “Hiiijack,” SZA’s flushed with desire

gonna pull a Rachel and say apostrophes are bad! because you don't actually need it here and it makes the sentence slightly less clear na mean?

The magic on this release, it’s got more to do with the music behind the words.


you could cut the comma out and replace "it's" with "has" and it'd be clearer probs

She procured Toro Y Moi, XXYYXX and Dae One for production duties on the release

"procure" is probably not the right word here, maybe "enlisted?"

anyways these are minor quibbles so YAY GOOD JOB :]

Aspaceman
April 20th 2014


6 Comments


it kind of reminds me of james blake mixed with sade

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


3469 Comments


yeah this album is kinda like alunageorge but more american and worse unfortunately

Green Baron
April 20th 2014


20000 Comments


dammit wu-tang jokes have already been made

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2014


31340 Comments


Still need to check this out

SharkTooth
April 20th 2014


5056 Comments


y'know, I am legitamitely curious, is SZA pronounced "the sizza" or "sizza"?



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy