Review: SZA's "Z" Album

 
77%

Editor rating

Golden: 4 Broken: 0
Unanimous

Audience rating

113 votes
85%
Review: SZA's "Z" Album

Editor Rating

70%
Nicolas James

Not bad.

Although there are definitely strong moments throughout "Z", I didn't find myself fully engaged while listening. SZA has a great voice and presence, but the production and general execution felt a bit rushed. This is just the beginning, though.
7
4
95%
Glennisha Morgan

Stellar. Another banger for TDE.

SZA's pen game is strong, offering lyrics that go far beyond surface emotion. She completely brings the listener into her world, on a fantasy ride. It doesn't hurt that her voice is cloud-like.
54
24
72%
Trevor Smith

Enjoyable, not memorable

"Z" benefits from strong vocal performances and interesting production tricks, but not much stuck with me after the runtime. Unlike "Cilvia Demo", I don't feel I gained a true sense of who SZA is. She has potential, but it's not fully realized here.
14
3
71%
Rose Lilah

Glitter R&B

SZA offers up soft vocals & ambiguous lyrics on "Z" which don't exactly draw the listener in. It makes for nice background music, but may not keep your attention for too long. She has a beautiful voice, I hope she'll do something more exciting w/ it.
7
3

Audience Rating

How do you rate this album/mixtape? Very Hottttt Hottttt Meh... Not feeling it Make it stop!  

TDE's newly signed singer, SZA releases her debut album, "Z", which is another notch in the belt for the West coast label.

Top Dawg Entertainment’s big-haired, freckled, suburban newcomer released her debut album, Z on April 8th. The ten-track album is the follow up to her 2013-released free EP S. TDE’s Kendrick Lamar and Isaiah Rashad appear on the album along with Chicago’s Chance The Rapper. The new offering of her self-described “glitter trap” has production by Mac Miller, Toro Y Moi, Emile Hayne and the late Marvin Gaye. Born Solana Rowe, the St. Louis born and New Jersey-raised singer and songwriter stays consistent with her usual cryptic lyrics. 

“Superficial, superwoman/Ain’t you tired of that wind in your face?/Your skin tastes like brussel sprouts I swear/Can’t seem to remember your face/So give it up give it up papa/Make it make sense to me/I can not go any further than two steps in front of me,” the 24-year-old sings on the first track, ”UR”, which is produced by Mac Miller. The recent Vogue-featured artist's airy and ephemeral voice is reminiscent of Nigerian singers Sade and Nneka. 

“Childs Play” (produced by XXYYXX and Dae One) is a relaxing synthesized track, but is interrupted by Chance The Rapper’s pitchy voice. “Ripping the heads off all my Barbie dolls/Toss them to the side, give them convertibles/Click vroom, I like the way it rides up/Ken had it all, Skipper wanted more than/Watching from the sidelines, wish that she had it/She wish that she had it,” SZA sings, sure to make one nostalgic of childhood.

The 1980’s inspired mid-tempo track “Julia” breaks the monotony and ensues visuals of finger-snapping women in tube socks, off-shoulder sweat shirts and side ponytails. “Warm Winds”, the hopeful track about acceptance and lonely nights follows. “I am shooting stars you will never see me/Watching over your every mistake/Digging out of graves is never easy/Handing you my shovel, here to take/Always playing catch me if you can/Gingerbread you heard I’m sweet to taste/Close your eyes let go and count to ten,” she croons prior to the Isaiah Rashad assisted hook after a beat change.

The Toro Y Moi-produced record, “Hi Jack” starts off sounding like Erykah Badu’s 2003 track “Back in the Day (Puff)” and is definitely a ride through space. “Sometimes I keep you in my mind...do anything to keep you tied up,” SZA sings on the hook about a sweet obsession.

Dark and depressing, “Green Mile” takes Z for a twisted turn. “Sharpshooter in my backyard/Killed a small boy once, never told no one/If It wasn’t for my shotgun, he’d be alive and I’d be halfway to heaven/Instead of sitting in the dark,going through hell/You should have been here/Wish you had been here", the brown skin beauty sings. Similar to Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”, if you’re only caught up in the melody, you’d never know that the song is so tragic. 

The newcomer begs for a lover to hold her captive to their love and “spread like disease all over” her on the DJ Dahi-produced track “Babylon”, which has a cameo by TDE’s most highly-praised artist Kendrick Lamar. SZA surprisingly gets sultry singing about her and her lover’s sexapade,”We did ungodly ghastly things, last night I mean/Who’s God anyway?/You’re mine any day/It’s burning/Take me/I wanna feel/Your power/This final hour/Tell me”

“Sweet November”, one the albums blatant stand-out tracks, is groovy, highlighting guitar strings. The song could have easily been recorded live at New York City’s notable 1960 jazz club, Birdland. Singing about a fear of love SZA jolts the album with the soft rock record “Shattered Ring” (produced by Emile Hayne). Playing up her ambiguity, she shouts out The LOX’s most prominent member, Jadakiss in the second verse,”Giddy up Goldilocks, you took too long to save me/Bumping that Jadakiss is dangerous for sanity/Open my candy box, for you sir,sugar daddy”

The album wraps up with “Omega”, an aerial cry out to God. “Mountains on my fingertips/I stand at the tippy, screaming at the top of my lungs/Tears in my eyes/Adonai, Ya Allah, answer my calls if you hear me/Adonai, Ya Allah, answer my calls if you hear me” 

Overall, SZA plays it safe with the consistency of her voice and sound, allowing fans of her previous releases to enjoy her norm while also offering something refreshing to new listeners. Unlike typical singers, she sings about love in an inconspicuous way that would even make the most cynical person covet a passionate experience, because somehow she makes the not-so-good parts about love sound magical. In addition to covering heartbreaks and obsessions, the whimsical artist candidly offers her take on American tragedy and shows her vulnerability while begging God to talk to her. Z, is definitely a release not to be slept on. The album would probably most likely be enjoyed in a candle-doobie lit smoky room, accompanied by a glass of white wine. 

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