Artist of the Week: SZA Sheds Light on the Future of R&B

If any two genres were to collide, I’d pray it would be R&B and electro-pop; SZA is that dream mash-up. The 23 year old has the appeal of shoe-gazey, ambient pop with the vocal richness of an R&B singer. Chimey, textured rhythms accompany her velvet voice. Her sound is airy yet complex; the layered beats and vocal reverb are complimentary, creating audio ecstasy.

Artist of the Week – SZA

SZA started messing around with music making in 2012. She released See.SZA.Run in 2013, her first mark on the scene that introduced this irresistibly seductive voice. The same year, she released S (the first of three EPs named after her initials). When working with ambient pop-like beats, it can be easy to bore the listener by staying in the same key or never changing the bass line, but each track on S is fresh and the music is as rich as her vocals.

The album is also seemingly narrated by intermittent sound bites of Eartha Kitt from the documentary All By Myself (1982), and it plays as if the listener is getting an inside look of SZA’s life and mind. S is a perfect blend of R&B, airy pop and electronica that takes you to a higher state of mind. SZA changes the game by producing challenges against the standards of R&B.

SZA isn’t your typical musical breakout; she went from a Marine Biology major to Kendrick Lamar’s label mate, almost overnight. She quotes Bjork as her main influence, and grew up to the sounds of Miles Davis and Lauryn Hill. SZA’s sound is also reflective of Lana Del Rey and Kid Cudi, as they all share the producer Emile Haynie. She signed to Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013 after making music for only a year, on which she’s released the singles “Julia” and “Teen Spirit,” which have been getting a solid buzz of blogosphere attention.

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With every new release, SZA aims to surprise. When I think I have her sound figured out, she gives a new spin of beats and signing style, moving from freestyle to an airy vocal quality with ambient pop beats (see: “Euphraxia”), to a structured singing style with 80s pop influence (see: “Julia”). SZA is still fresh on the scene, but already shows a serious promise of originality that many artists simply can’t touch.

Article by Jess Keller

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