SZA has finally made her bones with the capacious “Hit Different,” entering the legendary company of these and other Black women singers who have discussed the many aspects of a relationship that have gone wrong.
Torch songs express everything from the illicit pleasure exchanged at a one-night stand (Shirley Murdock’s “While We Lay”) to the deep-seated agony of becoming a “not quite” jilted bride (“Congratulations” by Vesta Williams).
After healing from vocal cord injuries and struggling with label setbacks, SZA returns to us armed with her trademark, optimistic and driven, jazz cadence flourishes. Featuring a hook by Ty Dolla $ign with Neptune music, “Hit Different” marks the first new release by the platinum-selling group since their studio debut, 2017’s CTRL. To remember this, SZA first sat in the chair of the director to create the music video that followed them. Alongside her similarly provocative backup dancers, her synchronized movements bring to mind “Rock the Boat,” the last music video Aaliyah shot before her fatal plane crash.
In comparison to Aaliyah’s ode to sexual assertiveness, SZA ‘s song captures slyly the different phases of tainted love. Aware of the implications, she defends the attempt as a “necessity” in her life, indulging it with wide-open eyes: “Wow, I get more in love with you every argument / Somethin’s wrong with me, I like the way you screw your face up / Trigger me right when I need it.” Her artful video direction shows the inherent duality of the message: At one point, SZA finds itself emboldened by hers. But soon, flashes of a blood-drenched SZA alert onlookers – and maybe even herself – to proceed in this bad romance with caution.