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They Reminisce Over You Podcast

Episode B-Side: New R&B For Old Heads - SZA

When we recorded our "New R&B For Old Heads" episode, SZA's SOS album release date hadn't been announced yet. Ironically, it came out on the same day that we released the episode. So, we had to go back in and record this B-Side the next day with some new information that had been presented to us via the album. Christina gives us what might be a controversial take by comparing SZA to an R&B legend, and we get into the musical parallels of the two artists.


Christina: Welcome to the B-side. I'm Christina.

Miguel: And I'm Miguel. So we released our "New R&B for Old Heads" episode couple weeks ago, and we didn't intend for this to happen, but it came out on the same day that SZA released her second album, SOS.

Christina: Her highly anticipated second album.

Miguel: Yes. Which we mentioned in the episode. Even though we spent like seven minutes butchering her verse on "All the Stars," we don't have a hatred for SZA. I just don't listen to her. You used to listen to her, but you stopped once you realized that we couldn't understand what she was saying.

Christina: Yeah. And it started to weird me out.

Miguel: Yeah. So, since then, the album came out yesterday and you've listened to it and watched a couple of her interviews and you've come up with something.

Christina: Yes. So, as we were saying, some people might have thought that we hate her, but we don't.

Miguel: We don’t.

Christina: I actually really like her voice and I like her melodies, which is why I used to listen to her, but we won't get too much into this again. But that whole quote unquote "italic" style of singing just started to weird me out.

Miguel: Fair.

Christina: And as we discussed in the previous episode, it just wasn't for us.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: But, since the release, like everybody is talking about it. And I knew she was beloved and people were anticipating it, but I didn't know it was like this.

Miguel: Oh, no. I have seen for months, even before the album was even mentioned as coming out, she's been getting harassed on social media about, where's the album? Basically like what happens to Rihanna.

Christina: Right.

Miguel: Has been happening to SZA as well.

Christina: Yeah, so, I kind of just chalked it up as like, it's just not for me. But, just with everybody talking about it. And even people, I wouldn't necessarily—actually, some people in our age group, but some people who are older millennials were really into it and stuff too. And I was just like, maybe I'm not too old for this.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: So, I just really wanted to understand and I listened to a couple songs that people were talking about and I end up watching a couple of her interviews. And…I think I finally get it.

Miguel: Okay. Explain.

Christina: So, I think she’s—I don't know if this is a hot take—I think she's this generation's Mary J. Blige. And I’ll tell you why.

Miguel: Okay. Okay. I, I can't deny it because I'm not of this generation.

Christina: Right.

Miguel: But I'm willing to hear you out.

Christina: I'll tell you why.

Miguel: Okay.

Christina: So, I started off with listening to a couple songs like I said, and I was like, all right, production is good. Like I said, her voice is, is nice, and she does sound like she is singing a little clearer for us.

Miguel: Okay,

Christina: Well, clearer to us.

Miguel: All right.

Christina: Not for us, cause this ain't for us.

Miguel: It isn’t. We are not the target audience.

Christina: So, I was like, okay, maybe I'll give this a chance. And then I ended up watching an interview[1] with her on Hot 97. She's doing her album promo stuff. And the first thing I notice is that she is doing this interview from bed.

Miguel: Okay.

Christina: And when I say from her bed, I'm not talking about this sort of like, "look how cozy my apartment is" aesthetic. Like, she's literally just laying in bed. She's got a pillow over her stomach. There's no like, fancy decorations or anything. It's just literally her in bed. She looks like she got a little makeup on or something.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: So, she's not like I just woke up, but she's like just—

Miguel: I'm not coming to your studio. I'm doing this from here.

Christina: Right. In bed. And then just throughout the whole interview she was being very candid, very like, I'm just talking to my friend. Like, the interviewer was—even though it was a very casual interview, like, you know, she's a, a radio DJ, she's still in that interview zone. But, the way SZA is responding to the questions is very much like, I'm talking to my girlfriend, casual tone. And, she's talking about the inspiration behind the album and her feelings about releasing her art to the world. Her and her fiance had apparently broken up and she’s, you know, justifiably going through it.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: And, it's all coming out through the music. And, just also dealing with the pressures of releasing a second album because, everybody wants it to be great.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: So, obviously she's feeling a lot more pressure. And just the pressures of being a public figure. And it just clicked while I was watching this interview of her in bed, just being very unapologetic and candid. I'm like, I think this is how I felt about Mary J. Blige.

Miguel: Okay. I, I can see where you're going with with that now.

Christina: Yeah, so, the very candid interviews. The little to no media training. I don't know if SZA has any, but like I said, it was a very casual interview.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: The bearing of your soul through your music. The raw emotion. ‘Cause remember in the episode about Mary, we kept going on and on about how K-Ci must have been putting her through the ringer.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: Because she is going through it

Miguel: Yes.

Christina: And it's all in her music. And, he's in these damn songs too. But that's another story.

Miguel: Okay, wait, wait, wait. So...

Christina: No, no, no, no. K-Ci—

Miguel: Oh I—

Christina: The only difference is—

Miguel: I was just gonna say that the guy that she's speaking about.

Christina: No, no, no, no.

Miguel: Is on the songs. Ok he's not.

Christina: He isn't. So, Mary had a additional layer of actually having that toxic man on the album—

Miguel: Right.

Christina: And working on the album, which SZA didn't. But, it just all clicked with me. And then, also, one of the things that we liked about Mary in addition to just sort of this raw emotion, was that she had hip hop swagger.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: And, so does SZA. Just the way she is. She's the first lady of TDE.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: And, there's even a song with ODB on this new album.

Miguel: That is so random.

Christina: I meant to listen to it because I was like, what? So, I haven't heard it yet but she was talking about it in the interview, because they asked her how did she get this sample?

Miguel: Right. Because why would she have a ODB song in 2022?

Christina: Exactly. And also like where did this verse come from?

Miguel: Yeah.

Christina: So, she said that Rodney Jerkins had some documentary footage. And, he let her use it. And she had mentioned something about talking to ODB's estate about using it as well. So, the fact that she would even want an ODB verse on her album, I'm like, maybe this can be for me. Right?

Miguel: Okay. You're starting to swing me back to the other side.

Christina: Yeah.

Miguel: Keep going, keep going.

Christina: Yeah. So, she's got that. And then, she also has a song, which I did listen to where she does a little rapping and I was like okay.

Miguel: Okay.

Christina: I guess you can't rap in italics. ’Cause it was, it was alright.

Miguel: You know what? If you tried really hard, you probably could. I'm gonna say, yes you can, because Bone Thugs-N-Harmony exist.

Christina: True, true.

Miguel: So, yes you can.

Christina: You can. But, I was like, okay, I can get with this. And not only did she, I don't know, maybe channel her inner, uh, what was the rapping name that Mary used?

Miguel: Brook Lynn.

Christina: Her rap name, Brook Lynn. This was over a beat that was produced by one of our favorite internet nephews, turned Super Producer.

Miguel: Okay. Who that?

Christina: Jay Versace and—

Miguel: His career pivot

Christina: Yes.

Miguel: Has been so interesting to me.

Christina: And his style of production is very old head friendly.

Miguel: It is.

Christina: So, I was like, okay, I like this beat and I wouldn't call SZA a rapper, but I was like, I could get on board with this.

Miguel: All right.

Christina: So, I was like, okay. I think, for me, as an older person, I was like, I really think SZA is this generation's Mary J. Blige.

Miguel: You know what? When you lay it out like that, because when you first said it, I was ready to say that you're crazy and we may have to separate after this. But, you've pulled it all together and you kind of bringing me around now. So, I think I might have to give this a listen.

Christina: Yeah. One more thing to solidify this. I feel like Ctrl was, What's The 411? where she came out, presented herself. And then from what I'm hearing people saying about SOS, this is her My Life, because like I said, she just broke up with her fiance, which, you know, the relationship stuff.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: And the interviewer asked her, "is there anything at all that you want us to take away?" And her response to that, "I feel like the general theme is I'm pissed, so I hope that that is understood."

Miguel: Okay.

Christina: So what she wants us to know about SOS.

Miguel: All right.

Christina: There's a lot of relationship angst, working out your personal issues in these songs. I mean, what does that sound like?

Miguel: It sounds like My Life.

Christina: It does.

Miguel: If you just describe it that way, it's My Life.

Christina: Yeah. So, I'm definitely going to give this album a good listen with a more open mind. Now, I do like her voice. There is 23 songs though, so I'm not sure if it still is for me.

Miguel: Right.

Christina: And if it isn't, it's because I'm old and I already have my Mary J. Blige.

Miguel: Yeah. And I'm gonna say if you have an album with 23 songs on it, it's gonna take me a while to get through it cuz I can't give you that much time. My time is precious and I can't be sharing it with SZA. So, I will take it in chunks, but I will listen to it, with the information that you've given me. I'm going to listen to Ctrl, and then I'm gonna listen to SOS and see if it connects.

Christina: Same here.

Miguel: With the, What's the 411? and My Life.

Christina: Yeah.

Miguel: As you're presenting to us right now.

Christina: Yeah, and I hope she finds peace eventually as Mary J. Blige seems to have found her peace. And, she is fully in her "dress and rest era."

Miguel: She is.

Christina: So—

Miguel: She’s got all the boots. She's got all the wigs. She's just on "dress and rest."

Christina: "Dress and rest." And hopefully SZA will find her own "dress and rest era" as well.

Miguel: We will see. We will come back and give an update. Well, at least I will give an update because you've already given us the blueprint to work with. I will give my update at some point in a future episode.

Christina: Yeah. So, any SZA fans who took this the wrong way, like, calm down. It's just, I didn't say I hated her. I just said that this style is weird to me and I fully recognize—

Miguel: It still is.

Christina: it's because I'm old.

Miguel: Yes, but I'm gonna give it a third chance because I've given her a second chance. It didn't work. So, I will give it a third chance with this new information and see if I can be swayed. I'm leaning towards it, just based off of your descriptions. And like I said in that episode, I get all of my new music recommendations from trusted sources, so.

Christina: I mean, we're both kind of giving her a third try. Well—

Miguel: You were on board at first—

Christina: I was on board at first, so I’m—

Miguel: And then jumped off. I've never been on board. So, that's the difference. At some point in 2023, because we're not doing any more episodes this year, I will let you know if I'm hashtag team SZA or not.

Christina: I've got one foot back in.

Miguel: Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in.

Christina: Yep. So…

Miguel: Is that where you are?

Christina: Pretty much.

Miguel: All right.

Christina: Let me see if, in 2023, both feet will be back.

Miguel: All right. Got anything else you wanna say?

Christina: Nah, I think that's my, maybe, hot take.

Miguel: All right. See if it's as flaming hot as you say it is.

Christina: Yeah. So, now hopefully I didn't piss off Mary J. Blige fans like, the nerve of you to compare her. So, I don't know. Whatever.

Miguel: So now you have another battle you need to fight.

Christina: I'm just saying, in order for me to understand it, I had to put it in these terms.

Miguel: Ok. I get it.

Christina: And that's it. That's all.

Miguel: All right. So, we'll get back to you guys on that and we are out.

Christina: We out.