Twenty-three-year-old New Yorker Solana Rowe makes music that invokes the feelings many of her peers can relate to, including heartbreak, loneliness, ambition, and love. However, not a lot of twenty-three-year-old New Yorkers are able to display the same amount of sheer, thoroughly impressive skill (at least I can’t). Rowe– who works under the moniker of SZA– plans to display her gift for words, beats, and dreamy pop craftsmanship in a series of three EPs released throughout this year. The first of these mixtapes, the S EP, is a warm, welcome introduction.
That SZA’s trio of releases will be titled S, Z, and A, isn’t just fitting for obvious reasons; it’s also a testament to just how deeply personal the singer’s music can be. In eight tracks and just over twenty-eight minutes, S provides startling insight into what makes SZA tick: her hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties. Glorious opening number “Castles” enchants through the sounds of magical, Christmas-style sleigh bells and SZA’s ethereal, innocent vocals. “I wish I was prettier a little for ya/Maybe I’ll understand when I get older,” she sings, with the naivete of a child. “I’m not finished yet,” she later declares. Because who of us is?
“Terror Dome” begins with a lengthy sampling of dialogue from Rosemary’s Baby; it’s the memorable scene where Mia Farrow begs to see her doctor in a feverish panic, pleading on behalf of her unborn child. “There are plots against people, aren’t there?” she asks fearfully, which then transitions to SZA’s ominous introduction, “Welcome to my terror dome.” Another sample highlights “The Odyssey,” but this time, it’s an interview with iconic singer and actress Eartha Kitt. When the journalist asks Eartha, “Are you willing to compromise within a relationship?”, she basically laughs in face. “A man comes into my life and I have to compromise? For what?”
The second half of S has a decidedly chillier vibe, especially on “Pray,” “Ice.Moon,” and “Wings,” the latter of which features some pretty nasty drops. SZA flits between pop and R&B with purpose based on whatever suits her mood at the time. Overall, the EP is the beginning of a mythic journey with a promising young artist that we should all be planning to take. “I’m alive,” SZA sings on “Aftermath,” almost as if realizing it for the very first time. And with that, we’ll go wherever SZA wants to take us.
3.5 / 5 bars