10 Best SZA Songs, Contemporary R&B Innovator

A leading voice in contemporary R&B, SZA uses elements from trap, pop, and lofi music to create her unique style. Since self-releasing her first EP, ‘See.SZA.Run,’ in 2012, SZA has enjoyed a steady rise to fame, building an acclaimed personal catalog as well as contributing to huge hits for other artists like Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, and Rihanna.

Her multi-faceted role in the music industry has led to her many Grammy nominations and top spots on the Billboard charts. Whether she’s singing about love, insecurity, or self-reflection, SZA’s music is brutally honest. From vulnerable to powerful, here are the standout tracks of SZA’s discography.

10. The Weekend

The most successful single from her deeply personal CTRL album, SZA finds herself having to share her man in ‘The Weekend.’ Her sometimes-boyfriend is playing three different women at the same time (the swine!). She takes him for the weekend, then somewhat regretfully sends him back to his other girlfriends for the week. R&B singer Solange directed the music video, which features the telling lines “one opted out; an imbalance of power, shifted the whole tide” at the bottom of the screen. Though SZA confessed the song came together quickly, the entire package represents a controversial, revealing take on today’s dating culture.

9. Open Arms (feat. Travis Scott)

The R&B singer features sage advice from her grandmother at the beginning of ‘Open Arms,’ which focuses on the matriarch’s gentle voice explaining to listeners that sometimes, doing your best is all you can do. SZA has featured her grandmother on a few different tracks, highlighting the close bond they share. This laid back, romantic R&B ballad talks about loving someone even when they push you away. Travis Scott collaborated with the singer for the intimate song, and commands one of his own verses to create a poignant “yin and yang” duality. This tune marked the fifth time they joined forces in the studio.

8. All The Stars (with Kendrick Lamar)

Kendrick Lamar and SZA teamed up to create this catchy R&B song that was the lead single for the Black Panther soundtrack. It plays in the end credits of the movie, and got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. SZA takes lead in the chorus, repeating “all the stars are closer” in an emotional tone. This line relates to themes in Black Panther, where the main character draws on power from ancient spirits, who are often represented by stars.

Recommended: Check out the rest of the Black Panther soundtrack.

7. Good Days

SZA’s first song to hit the Top 10, ‘Good Days’ is a dreamy track, featuring background vocals from Jacob Collier and written with Carter Lang. With shimmery guitar riffs and effortless vocals, this song sees SZA trying to move away from negativity and find the good days again. Produced by L.A. artist LosHendrix, a beat he stored away on his hard drive became the foundation for the song after sending it to SZA. She dutifully worked on the track for over a year, but still felt she was coming up short. When she sent what she had finished to her songwriting partner Collier, he added soulful harmonies, and she realised that’s exactly what the tune had been missing. Weeks later, she sent a track teaser out to her social media following and they went crazy over it.

6. Shirt

This song got its name after an unreleased snippet went viral on TikTok. Fans started referring to it as ‘Shirt’ because of the first line in the chorus: “bloodstain on my shirt.” SZA has a lighthearted and open relationship with her fans, so she went with it, tweeting “I heard y’all named the Tik Tok song “shirt” lol. I’m fine w that” after seeing the online response. SZA sings about a complicated romance that is exciting and dramatic, even though it is not good for her in the long run.

5. Kiss Me More (feat. Doja Cat)

Doja Cat envisioned SZA specifically for ‘Kiss Me More,’ and spoke about the depth and extra meaning SZA brought to the track during a Capital XTRA interview. Each woman has a different style, yet they mesh perfectly in this playful and seductive track about asking someone to kiss you. In 2022, they took home the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

4. Nobody Gets Me

Catchy and quick R&B melodies are a trademark of SZA’s style, but this stand out track from her ‘SOS’ album shows she has range. The guitar ballad features SZA singing about how nobody understands her but her ex, which is why she’s having such a hard time moving on. The vulnerability of the track makes it impactful, as it details experiences from SZA’s real life during a complicated breakup with her fiancé at the time. The emotionally-tinged tune became a passionate group effort when she brought close friends and fellow longtime collaborators Rob Bisel, Carter Lang, Benny Blanco, and Robin Weisse into the studio to help her drive home the track’s stormy message.

3. Low

With trap hi-hats and rap melodies, this is another groovy SZA track that pulls from multiple genres. SZA wants to keep all her relationships and physical encounters on the down low, singing straight to her hookups to say that she expects total privacy and confidentiality from them. It’s both empowering and fun, and features background vocals from her good friend Travis Scott. Out of all the songs on her popular SOS album, SZA has said in interviews that ‘Low’ was the hardest one to write, not only because of its intense instrumental-focused layers, but because she had to step out of character and channel a woman with much more “aggression” than she naturally has.

2. Snooze

The Rascals, a producer duo that have been behind some huge pop and R&B hits, worked on this track with SZA and Babyface. SZA had arrived to the session that day planning to work on a different song, but changed directions when she heard the beat for ‘Snooze’ and loved it. In the song, being with her partner is so important to her she doesn’t even want to fall asleep, and avoids hitting the metaphorical “snooze” button. But she might just be dreaming. We find out in the bridge that the other person has been threatening to leave. The singer had a ton of fun with the spirited tune in the studio, and packed the lyrics full of references to some of her favorite film directors and movies including Quentin Tarantino and Scarface.

1. Kill Bill

We mentioned earlier SZA is a big Quentin Tarantino fan, and her popular tune ‘Kill Bill’ was named after one of his all time greatest films. The R&B queen drew parallels between the song and the hit film because both artistic pieces feature a character who sets out to kill her ex. The music video focuses on recreations of some of the iconic scenes from the film series. Creative songwriting and smooth melodies helped this song soar to the top of the charts, but SZA was actually surprised by its success, saying how little effort it took compared to some of her less popular songs. Still, her supporters found this track to be especially addicting, making this top spot position well deserved.

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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