On September 3rd 2020, after a three-year-long hiatus since releasing her seminal debut album CTRL, R&B artist SZA appeared like a star in the night to drop a music video for her newest single. I’d been waiting to see what the coolest singer in the game would do next musically, and she didn’t disappoint. 

Titled Hit Different, the track encapsulates everything I love about SZA’s music. Hearing chords from The Neptunes ring in followed by featured artist Ty Dolla $ign’s smooth voice, let me know I was in excellent territory before SZA let her sultry vocals loose. 

‘I was into you from the beginnin’ even if you wasn’t mine, scared to admit my shortcomings’  led to overdraft in this affair’

“Hit Different” by SZA

As she sings these lyrics, she is informing listeners that she’s still out here making mistakes in love like the rest of us. SZA isn’t afraid to admit she’s an imperfect soul and that’s why I rock with her. 

My connection with SZA runs deep. 

She is not only a Black woman like me, but we were both born the same year. And in the era of endless millennial dating woes, we’ve both developed into womanhood during a time where relationships and their definitions are murky and blurred.

‘Need clear vision, boy…get caught in your crossfire’

“Hit Different” by SZA

Halfway through the song, she sings this lyric describing her skewered vision from yet another broken relationship. SZA has become the guru for perfectly illustrating how messy dating has become for Black women in today’s climate. Her discography reads like an open diary, revealing her inner turmoil when it comes to the opposite sex. 

I understand all too well the perplexity she experiences being in one situationship after the next, ‘Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me? Why you bother me when you know you got a woman?’ she sings frustratingly on track Love Galore, questioning why her life has been disrupted by a man who can’t commit. This mistreatment is repeated throughout SZA’s song list, showcasing the real struggle some Black women go through while falling in between the cracks of relationships and settling into unfulfilling trysts with men who prefer it that way.

I’ve been one of those women left heartbroken after being in relationship limbo. Throughout the months I’d been dating this guy, we never discussed our relationship status, and, at that time, I felt we didn’t need to as it was clear we had a strong connection. I assumed that we had built up enough respect for each other along with that connection and that we’d be honest about however we were feeling towards each other. I was wrong.

Towards the end, this man I thought I knew became so absent I couldn’t hold on any longer—so I let myself go. That feeling of second-guessing oneself when dealing with unavailable men is a mental battle I continued to put myself through after that relationship ended. When I look back at it now, I realize it was more of a ‘situationship’, which is defined as a romantic relationship that is and remains, undefined. “Situationship” is a term born from the millennial dating experience, as we’ve apparently become more careless and casual as a generation – but are we really though?

While it might seem fun and sexually awakening for some, this current era of undefined unions can be damaging when emotions are involved. You have to bargain with your head over your heart at times. SZA does this in her popular track “The Weekend” where she discusses sharing a man with another woman, ‘the feelin’ is reckless / Of knowin’ it’s selfish / And knowin’ I’m desperate’. Although I haven’t experienced this, I can understand SZA’s emotional turbulence here, having been unsure where I stood with that guy I’d grown deep feelings for years ago. It left me yearning for more affection, continuing a sad cycle void of validation and fulfillment. When you associate someone with that affection, it’s hard to walk away, no matter how bad they treat you. ‘Do it ’til it hurts less’, SZA convinces herself in a song ultimately about self-sabotage.

‘…Just tell me you want me…and I’ll be at your door / Ready to take her place’. SZA’s deep vulnerability is exposed here as she craves full acceptance and love no matter the cost. Yet how can we as women expect this if we enter situations where we’re not fully accepted and loved on in the first place? This song speaks to the insecurities of women who find themselves in these positions, which is more often than we’d like to think. We let men validate ourselves as a result, leaving us lost when they walk away, ‘I don’t see myself / Why I can’t stay alone just by myself? / Wish I was comfortable just with myself’ SZA sings in “Supermodel”. A song that starts off strong as she croons about leaving her man, but then ends up in an almost dream-like state, as she reveals her true desire to be accepted wholly by this same man.

You’re a supermodel anyway, SZA, I hope you know that. With or without anyone. And thanks to you, I know that for myself. We can be our own supermodels if we learn to cherish ourselves before anyone else. I love that SZA’s music has brought me to this conclusion.

If it wasn’t for the personal imperfections she sings of, I wouldn’t be triggered as a fan to look inside myself and dig around for any of my own insecurities possibly getting in the way of my relationships with both myself and others. Like me, SZA is a work in progress, breaking down the complexities of love and relationships for Black women beautifully in song for us all to think, feel, and hopefully heal. 

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