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SZA's second album was such a long time coming that it was preceded by a fifth anniversary deluxe edition of her debut (the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated Ctrl), and enough loose tracks, soundtrack cuts, and featured appearances to make an LP-length playlist. One of the intervening singles, "Hit Different," is vintage enough to be sampled -- slowed down to lend a spectral self-duet quality to "Love Language," among many songs on SOS that portray romantic torment with conflicted emotions. SZA also draws "SOS" itself as a clip-emptying return, an opening scene soundtracked by muffled gospel soul, kicking down the door and staking claims with assaultive bars about her incontestable omnipotence and impostors hatched since she went supernova. Hour-plus length and stylistic variety likewise signal that SOS could be the overreaching kind of highly anticipated follow-up. Still, it's an advancement from Ctrl in every respect apart from cohesion, a feature purposefully disregarded by SZA and main songwriting/production collaborators Rob Bisel and Carter Lang. Take track two, "Kill Bill," a bleary/psychedelic pop-soul revenge fantasy with a performance of such nuance that escalating madness, delight, and shock can be sensed in SZA's confession to murder. "Gone Girl," yearning for comfort and intimate escape, is one of those sad stealth belters. The chaser is a cold-blooded if humor-laced rap broadside. Not far behind is a lonesome and spiteful country pop-punk rager and another number with some Nashville appeal, a codependent acoustic ballad. Fine as the classification-defying moments are, R&B soliloquies remain SZA's forte. The emotional and sonic complexity of SOS was teased by three such songs, pre-release singles placed toward the end that are crucial to the sequence. The brilliantly lean and scuffed Darkchild collaboration "Shirt" allows all the space needed for the singer to unleash some terse invective directed outward and inward. "I Hate U" is a striking depiction of intimate restlessness rendered as an inching slow jam that stings as much as it seduces. "Good Days" is both downcast and dazzling, covering exhaustion, regret, renewal, and progression in one spangled swoop. One of the latter ballad's finely wrought phrases, "a war in my mind," would have been just as suitable an album title as the distress signal.

SOS 1:58
Kill Bill 2:34
Seek & Destroy 3:24
Low 3:02
Love Language 3:04
Blind 2:31
Used 2:27
Snooze 3:22
Notice Me 2:41
Gone Girl 4:05
Smoking On My Ex Pack 1:24
Ghost In The Machine 3:39
F2F 3:06
Nobody Gets Me 3:01
Conceited 2:32
Special 2:39
Too Late 2:45
Far 3:01
Shirt 3:02
Open Arms 4:00
I Hate U 2:56
Good Days 4:41
Forgiveless 2:22