Since debuting in the early 2010s, SZA has become one of R&B and neo-soul’s most unique voices. The New Jersey-raised singer brought confessional songwriting and atmospheric sounds to the forefront across her acclaimed albums like Ctrl and collabs with stars like Kendrick Lamar. SZA’s vulnerable lyrics and genre-bending style have rightfully earned her critical and commercial success.
This ranking highlights SZA’s top 10 songs based on their sonic and lyrical craft, impact, acclaim, popularity, and representation of her artistry. From soulful deep cuts to hits that made her a star, these SZA tracks showcase her talent for blending alt R&B, rap, pop, and electronic music influences into a progressive sound. Let’s dive into SZA’s musical world and count down her best songs.
#10: “Garden (Say It Like Dat)”
This hazy standout from SZA’s 2017 debut full-length Ctrl finds her ruminating on a relationship’s uncertain future over mellow, swaying production suiting the song’s title. SZA questions whether love can blossom or if it’s time to walk away while delivering intimate vocals with delicate multi-tracked harmonies. “Garden’s” blend of introspection and sensuality encapsulates her essence as an artist.
#9: “Go Gina”
One of SZA’s most anthemic tracks, “Go Gina” appeared on her 2014 mixtape Z and later Ctrl. Over raucous, brassy production by frequent collaborator ThankGod4Cody, SZA delivers empowering lyrics celebrating a woman coming into her own. The song’s catchy hook instantly inspires confidence as SZA shows off sassy attitude. For its slick pop/rap blend and positive message, “Go Gina” earns its popularity.
#8: “Broken Clocks”
With its laidback, almost jazz-inflected melody, this Ctrl highlight finds SZA analyzing a doomed relationship after the fact. Her sing-song vocals float as she imagines “traded places with the love lost” and hopes karma will turn the tables. SZA’s relatable reflections on repeated romantic missteps make “Broken Clocks” resonant. Her vocal technique and knack for sticky phrasing elevate the quotable track.
#7: “Love Galore” ft. Travis Scott
SZA scored one of 2017’s biggest R&B hits by teaming with rap superstar Travis Scott on this silky duet. Their chemistry shines on the slinky track as SZA and Scott detail relationship woes and mutual shortcomings. Both artists fluidly ride the beat’s sexy groove highlighting their complementary styles. The radio smash exemplified SZA’s crossover potential between hip hop and R&B.
#6: “Good Days”
After slowly rolling this feel-good jam out on SoundCloud, SZA included a polished version of soulful standout “Good Days” on Ctrl to the delight of fans. Her sultry vocals shine addressing a lover over mellow production containing nostalgic organ keys that emit warmth. SZA captures the thrill of new romance and longing for the “good days” to last. The 2020 BLM remix with additional verses elevated the song’s potency.
#5: “The Weekend”
On this examination of a non-committal relationship, SZA laments being hidden away from her man’s main girl only on weekends. But she’s not faultless either, admitting her own selfish intentions over the hazy beat. SZA makes being the sidepiece painfully relatable with clever phrasing like wishing their romance could be “longer than the weekend” on this witty yet vulnerable 2017 single.
#4: “All the Stars” ft. Kendrick Lamar
SZA linked up with one of music’s biggest stars Kendrick Lamar for this lush soundtrack hit from 2018’s Black Panther film. Backed by elegant strings and Afrobeats percussion, SZA’s heavenly vocals take flight as she and Lamar convey the inspirational film’s messages of black excellence. It ranks among her most anthemic choruses alongside Kendrick’s uplifting bridge. The smash single amplified SZA’s artistry.
#3: “Hit Different” ft. Ty Dolla $ign
SZA and Ty Dolla $ign’s heavenly pairing explores fresh romantic bliss over breezy production. She turns clever phrases lamenting past heartbreak before Ty’s signature rasp reassures her she’s “safe and sound” now. Released in 2020 amidst the pandemic, “Hit Different” radiated joy and light during dark times. SZA’s melodic runs and smile-inducing lyrics make it a hidden gem.
#2: “Drew Barrymore”
Named after the actress, this laidback Ctrl standout finds a lonely SZA wishing she could exude Barrymore’s confidence and searching for purpose. Over hazy beats, her crystal-clear belt expresses insecurities and self-doubt that resonated deeply. By conveying such relatable emotions, SZA forged an intimate connection with listeners. “Drew Barrymore” illustrated her generational impact through vulnerability.
#1: “20 Something”
The best SZA song to date, this Ctrl bonus track finds her candidly unpacking the challenging mental headspace of one’s 20s over mournful guitar chords. Through vivid storytelling, SZA captures feeling lost amidst career doubts, faded youth, toxic relationships, and more. Her painfully honest lyrics veer from depression to self-realization. By articulating quarter-life crises so vividly, “20 Something” feels poignantly universal. SZA’s songwriting mastery shines brightest here.
SZA’s Artistic Legacy & Influence
Despite just one official studio album, SZA’s sonic footprint looms large. Early EPs like See.SZA.Run and Z established her atmospheric brand of left-of-center R&B informed by soul and jazz. Ctrl then cemented her artistic vision, earning her five Grammy nominations including Best New Artist.
SZA’s vulnerability and genre fluidity opened doors for artists like Summer Walker, Jhené Aiko, and Kehlani to find success with similar styles. As one of TDE’s few singer-songwriters alongside Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar, she also represents the label’s diversification.
Through inspiring women and outsiders who feel marginalized, SZA’s fandom keeps growing. Her music provides sanctuary for listeners amidst the chaos of life. Both her masterful albums and eclectic features suggest greater cultural impact still to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are SZA’s biggest musical influences?
SZA has cited a diverse array of R&B, soul, rap, jazz, and indie influences like Ella Fitzgerald, Meelah, Lauryn Hill, 2Pac, Björk, Jamiroquai, and contemporary artists like Frank Ocean. Her versatility comes from absorbing many genres.
How did SZA get discovered?
Born Solána Imani Rowe, SZA self-released music online as a college student before catching the ear of rapper Kendrick Lamar. He helped connect her to Top Dawg Entertainment. Her Z EP in 2013 marked SZA’s first official release through TDE.
What is SZA’s music typically about?
SZA’s lyrics explore relationships, sexuality, mental health, self-esteem, and quarter-life crises through an introspective lens. She conveys both insecurities and emotions very vulnerably in her music. SZA taps into feelings that are often left unsaid.
Why did Ctrl resonate so deeply?
SZA’s long-awaited debut Ctrl connected through her honest storytelling on songs like “Supermodel” tackling self-doubt and “20 Something” detailing depression amidst uncertainty. SZA’s candidness about issues like insecurity made her music widely relatable.
How would you describe SZA’s musical style?
SZA’s style often gets characterized as alternative R&B or neo-soul with its blend of soul, hip hop, electronic, and indie sensibilities. Lyrically her songs are deeply intimate, while her vocals can be airy and ethereal over moody, lush production. SZA constantly experiments across genres.
What artists did SZA collaborate with?
Beyond Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott, SZA has collaborated with rappers like ScHoolboy Q and Ty Dolla $ign along with R&B acts Usher, Jill Scott, Mariah Carey, and more. Her indie roots also led to collabs with bands like alt-J and The Internet.
How did SZA impact female artists?
SZA’s vulnerability and genre fluidity opened the door for similar artists like Summer Walker, Jhené Aiko, and Kehlani to find success fusing R&B and hip hop. She represented a new relatable female perspective in music that inspired other women.