Where She’s From: Maplewood, New Jersey
When She Started: 2001
Genre: Electronic soul / Alternative r&b
Sounds Like: Amel Larrieux trading secrets with Kilo Kish
There’s something to be said about SZA’s drawing power. It’s not just that her melange of melodies are somewhat reminiscent of early Amel Larrieux—from how she drags out lyrics in sultry whispers, to the seductive vibrato she echos in every hook. SZA also suffers from that same angelic vocal innocence that has carried Larrieux through decades of change and heartbreak over sometimes gritty, sometimes electro meets earthy, soulful rhythms. (You might even hear a little Brandy…)
And there’s more to the New Jersey native. She’s also got that Billie Holiday-ism, you know the one where the singer loves to sing in narratives. But when it comes to SZA, it’s mostly about the addictive power of her paramours, as if they were vivid affairs with drugs that leave her begging for release. (See “Crack Dreams” below.) As unassuming as Skye (of Morcheeba fame) and unexpected as Jill Scott, SZA wins for the sirens that we’ve learned to love secretly over the years—blasting their music on late night runs with the car windows all the way up, or while listening intently on sexy Sundays where wine is the only order of the day—until that startling moment came upon us when we realized that we were no longer standing alone in awe.
See.SZA.Run, the seven-song debut EP by SZA is that moment. And upon first listen, you will surely be reminded how far R&B has ventured onto electronic ground, but the need to roll your eyes as if she’s another banking on the success of the digital music trend is unwarranted. SZA obviously understands the fine art of diversifying her palette, as evident by her seamless ebb and flow between genres, while her mood is flawless and captivating. It should come as no surprise then that Coltrane, Sade, Miss (Lauryn) Hill and Björk top her list of early influences. And one day, hopefully, some young up and comer will be saying that same thing about SZA, and following in her footsteps.
Want to see SZA perform December 5 in NYC? Get tickets here.