Pride Month Spotlight: SZA

Lisa Marino, Radio General Manager

[Eds Note: This article has been published in partnership with Spinnaker Radio to feature LGBTQ+ music artists and celebrate Pride Month.] 

New Jersian R&B singer SZA (Solána Imani Rowe) did not grow up with the dream of being an artist.

In Maplewood, New Jersey, SZA was raised by her mother, an AT&T executive, and her father, a CNN executive producer. Her family was the only Black family in the suburban neighborhood she lived in.

Living without her siblings, SZA found a lot of random activities to do on her own.

“Sometimes I was taking up sculpture, or doing martial arts on my own, or going to the library by myself and looking up UFOs and séances, then coming home and summoning s*** in the basement,” SZA said in an interview with Wonderland Magazine.

Before studying marine biology at Delaware State University, then transferring to another college and dropping out, SZA had a variety of different career paths in mind, not including music.

SZA poses for a portrait
SZA poses for a portrait on Monday, December 4, 2017, in New York, New York. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)

“I thought I’d be a scientist, traveling around the world on some etymology s***…Or working for Greenpeace. Or working in an animal conservatory. Or working at a law firm with a popping corner office and a Porsche… I just knew that I was going to have a large gate and a dog that I loved,” SZA said in an interview with Flaunt.

After singing on her brother’s rap songs, SZA was inspired to start her own music career. Top Dawg Entertainment stumbled upon SZA’s mixtapes on social media and offered her a deal in Los Angeles, according to Flaunt.

Her debut album Ctrl, released in 2017, was well-received by the media and attracted her a loyal fanbase. The album maintained a spot on the Billboard 200 for 261 weeks, peaking at number 3.

At the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, SZA was the most nominated female artist with five nominations. She was nominated for “Best New Artist,” “Best Rap/Sung Performance,” “Best R&B Song,” “Best Urban Contemporary Album,” and “Best R&B Performance.” However, SZA left the awards empty handed.

Although her losses were upsetting to the media, SZA explained how she felt relieved when the award show was over in an interview with GQ.

“Afterward I felt really free and light…I felt like I had all this weight off my shoulders. For certain things, maybe it’s worth really giving a f***, but I still think it’s always worth giving a f***. It’s just learning how to process the lesson, the opportunity, the gift of the moment, rather than just letting your ego dictate what it all means,” SZA said in the interview with GQ.  

In April 2022, SZA won her first Grammy award with Doja Cat for “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” for their collaboration, Kiss Me More.

On Twitter, SZA responded to a photo of her with a caption labeling her as a lesbian. She commented on the photo saying, “It’s not wrong lol.”

SZA poses for a portrait
SZA poses for a portrait on Monday, December 4, 2017, in New York, New York. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)

R&B/soul single Good Days is one of SZA’s most popular songs with over 500 million streams on Spotify. The song earned a spot in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart in 2021.

The mellow track begins with an ambiance of chirping birds and a faint guitar pattern. A kick drum and snare establish the R&B beat before SZA introduces the vocal melody.

Synth and ambiance continue throughout the first verse as SZA’s vocals circulate. Her vocal melody mounts up before resolving in a series of descending riffs.

Bass guitar is added to advance the chord progression in the pre-chorus

A male background (BG) vocal joins SZA in the chorus, chromatically descending with SZA’s harmonies. It is not until the male voice hops on the melody that he is discernible as Jacob Collier. His supportive vocals rest in the left pan while SZA’s vocals rest in the right.

SZA climbs the scale in a series of triplets in the second verse. The guitar gradually travels to the left as a violin mimics a siren overtop the instruments and ambiance.

Seamlessly, the pre-chorus comes in with added vocal embellishments from SZA.

A high vocal cadenza prevails in the chorus as the stacked vocal harmonies and Collier support the fundamental chord progression.

Flute complements the guitar, ambiance, and percussive pattern in the lengthy instrumental interlude following the final verse.

Collier fulfills the outro with euphonious vocals. 

SZA’s music can be found on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music.


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