Since dropping her first EP in 2012, SZA’s lyricism has grown from gothic, fatalistic imagery to sharp tales of self-discovery and the gray areas of modern romance. She’s been able to capture 20-something (no pun intended) anxiety through replayable songs and palpable quotables from an everywoman lens in a way few of her peers have. The poppier, more colorful set of songs on her incredible debut LP Ctrl is a huge leap from her vibier, sometimes brooding EP years. But even her earlier songs showed a gift of empathy that in some ways foretold her rise to being a Grammy-nominated, Instagram caption-making star.
The potential social media captions on SZA joints are numerous whether she’s singing about maybe wanting to be more than the weekend girl, or the pains of simply wanting the right soulmate to bust it open for. Although a majority of her best lines are in Ctrl, her earlier projects See.SZA.Run, S, and Z come loaded with others. Her bars are what set her apart from contemporaries like the similarly moody The Weeknd and Kelela, and they’re what build up hype for Ctrl in the first place.
Of course, the naturalistic way SZA sings those words comes from her simply being emotionally honest. “Some days I feel defeated and I actually cry because I just don’t understand,” she told Complex in 2016. “Then you start getting biblical, like, ‘Why is this happening to my people?’ Then you go through, ‘It’s never going to change, so might as well just go with the flow.’ And then you go through, ‘No. I’m not asking anymore. I’m going to make it change.’”
The result of this internal inquisition? Plenty of gems from one of R&B’s most fascinating artists. From See.SZA.Run to Black Panther’s “All the Stars,” here are the 25 best SZA lyrics.