Baneen Talpur examines the trials and tribulations of modern love in SZA’s SOS.
Loving these days is complicated. In the world of modern dating, people are seen as almost disposable with a new hookup being just a swipe away. We live in a world of situationships and toxic relationships where we see people for a while, get bored and move onto the next. There are either too many labels or none at all. Yet we still long for connection. We still crave love, but nowadays it is harder to find than ever before. As a generation, we are struggling to love ourselves, let alone another person and SZA’s album SOS perfectly captures one of the major dilemmas around modern love, being hung up on an ex-partner, and the complex emotions that come with loving someone while not being whole yet yourself.
The album starts with a bang. SOS is a declaration of SZA reclaiming what is rightfully hers: herself. It sets the scene for the emotional turmoil that SZA is about to describe over the course of the album. From giving way too much to knowing she deserves better to using sex as an escape from her pain, the sentiments of the rest of the album can be described using this song. The much-loved track Kill Bill has topped charts all over the world. This chaotic ballad shows that SZA is here for revenge. The song perfectly juxtaposes her delusion that she is “mature” to the immature act of setting out to kill her ex and his new girl. Underneath all of the rage though is a fear that all of us have, the fear of being alone and how we would rather go to jail or hell than be alone.
All of her limits have been hit, including rampant cheating, low self-worth and the fear of being replaced, SZA is quite literally in pursuit of a trash can, a problem that many young women face these days. SZA has become emotionally dependent on this partner, not knowing who she is outside of the validation this man gives her. She has completely lost herself in the process of attaining this man and feels worthless without him. She has lost herself in this love and feels blinded by it. Each song represents a cycle of SZA trying to heal, yet going back to her old ways.
She will do anything to understand this man. She wants him to talk to her in his “love language”. In the intimate Snooze she says she will “touch fire” for him. She will do it multiple times. She won’t even let herself sleep for the moments that they are together because any time with him is “too important”. The album explores many aspects of a toxic relationship, such as needing space while being addicted to love. The love is clearly unsustainable but the singer keeps returning to it.
Each track perfectly articulates how she feels. SZA is not asking for much; just to be loved. These are among the deep emotions captured in her songs like Nobody Gets Me, where she truly believes no one will understand her except him, or in Special where she feels so ordinary despite being a top charting artist all over the world.
Unfortunately, this is a kind of love that is all too common these days. Modern love is broken and in need of some repair. The amount of people that have resonated with the album and made it to number one in numerous countries proves that these emotions and patterns are not SZA’s alone. Millions of people – women especially – are stuck in such unhealthy relationships. While I absolutely love the album and will not hear any slander against it, I think that it’s sad to see that this is the most resonating experience of modern love for many women. Love needs to be saved. To love is a radical act, but we are losing sight of this. We’re scared of real love. We run from commitment.
A lot of modern love habits are unhealthy and SOS accurately reflects a current crisis where we are not saying how we actually feel, are too afraid of love or lose ourselves in a connection which is actually a delusion, a reflection of a lack of love that we have for ourselves.