Apple Music 100 Best Albums

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A majestic raw nerve that set the bar for modern R&B.

In 2017, Ctrl—a 14-track project filled with songs about love, sex, self-doubt, and heartbreak—became one of the most influential albums in modern R&B. It was the soundtrack for many people in their twenties, highlighting the growing pains of young adulthood via diaristic, ultra-relatable lyrics and ruminations straight out of friend group chats. Five years later, SZA returned—just as honest, but trading self-love and acceptance for defiance. SOS is the sound of someone who’s had enough.

The title track, “Smoking on My Ex Pack” and “Far” exhibit a weariness and a wariness; she finds confidence on “Conceited” and “Forgiveless.” On “Ghost in the Machine,” she contemplates her loss of privacy and humanity with fellow Gen Z icon Phoebe Bridgers. The growth between her debut and sophomore album is stylistic as much as lyrical, blending a mix of her beloved lo-fi beats with grunge- and punk-inspired flourishes. None of it sounds out of place: SOS is the messy, majestic raw nerve of a masterpiece that the moment deserves.