SZA (singer)

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SZA CTRL Tour Toronto 2017 10 (cropped).jpg
SZA performing in August 2017
Background information
Birth nameSolána Imani Rowe
Born (1990-11-08) November 8, 1990 (age 28)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.[1]
OriginMaplewood, New Jersey, U.S.[1]
  • Singer
  • songwriter[2]
Years active2012–present
Associated acts

Solána Imani Rowe (born November 8, 1990),[3] known professionally as SZA (/ˈsɪzə/ SIZ),[4] is an American singer and songwriter. Rowe was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, and later relocated to Maplewood, New Jersey.[1][5] In October 2012, SZA self-released her debut EP, See.SZA.Run, which she then followed up with her second EP, titled S, in April 2013. In July 2013, it was revealed that she had signed to the hip hop record label Top Dawg Entertainment, through which she released Z, her third EP and first retail release, in April 2014.[6]

SZA's debut studio album, Ctrl, was released on June 9, 2017, to universal acclaim from music critics.[7] It debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 and was eventually certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album and its songs were nominated for four Grammy Awards, while SZA was nominated for Best New Artist at the 60th annual ceremony. Ctrl was ranked as the best album of 2017 by Time.[8]

SZA is a neo soul singer, whose music has been described as alternative R&B, with elements of soul, hip hop, minimalist R&B, cloud rap, witch house, and chillwave.[9] SZA's lyrics are described as "unravelling" and her songs often revolve around themes of sexuality, nostalgia, and abandonment.[10] SZA cites a variety of artists as influences, including Ella Fitzgerald, Meelah, Björk, Jamiroquai, and Lauryn Hill, among others.[11][12] SZA also takes influence from non-musical artists, including filmmaker Spike Lee.[12]

Early life[edit]

Solàna Imani Rowe was born on November 8, 1990, in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Maplewood, New Jersey.[1] Her father was an executive producer at CNN, while her mother was an executive at AT&T. Rowe was born to African American parents, a Christian mother and a Muslim father. She was raised as an orthodox Muslim, and has an older half-sister named Tiffany Daniels.[13] She has said of her religious beliefs:[14]

It’s like the belief in one God, all the pillars of Islam et cetera, and I think those are ideas that will never leave me, those make sense in my spirit. It’s the way that I connect with God; it has always made sense to me. I think I would love to wear my hijab but I feel like I don’t wanna wear my hijab and talk crazy on stage and be in videos with Travis Scott. Like I don’t wanna be disrespectful because I have too much love and respect for the religion, for my father, and for myself.

She attended a Muslim prep school every day after her regular schooling. Rowe attended Columbia High School, where she was very active in sports, including gymnastics and cheerleading.[15][16] However, due to the September 11 attacks, Rowe was subjected to bullying, leading her to stop wearing her hijab. As a high school sophomore, she was ranked among the best gymnasts in the United States.[15]

After graduating from high school, Rowe later went to Delaware State University to study marine biology. She eventually graduated but immediately after started taking random jobs in order to make money.[17] Rowe formed her stage name from the Supreme Alphabet, taking influence from rapper RZA, the last two letters in her name stand for Zig-Zag and Allah, while the first letter Rowe says can mean either savior or sovereign.[1]


2011–14: Career beginnings and EPs[edit]

SZA performing in Toronto in 2013

SZA first met members of Top Dawg Entertainment during the CMJ 2011, when her boyfriend's clothing company sponsored a show in which Kendrick Lamar was performing. Her early music was given to TDE president Terrence "Punch" Henderson, who liked the material and stayed in touch with her.[6] SZA's early music was recorded with her friends and neighbors in which they "stole a bunch of beats off the Internet".[17] On October 29, 2012, SZA self-released her debut EP See.SZA.Run.[18]

On April 10, 2013, SZA released her second EP, S, which was met with positive reviews from music critics.[19][20] SZA promoted the extended play with the release of a music video for the song "Ice Moon", directed by Lemar & Dauley.[21] On July 14, 2013, it was announced that Top Dawg had signed SZA.[22] In October 2013, SZA went on a four show tour with Swedish band Little Dragon; starting on October 17 at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles and ending on October 24 at the Music Hall of Williamsbug, Brooklyn, NY.[23] In December 2013, SZA released the song "Teen Spirit" which was followed by the release of a remix featuring American rapper 50 Cent, along with a music video directed by APLUSFILMZ.[24] In 2014, SZA featured on a variety of songs from her label-mates albums including two songs for Isaiah Rashad's debut EP Cilvia Demo as well as featuring on Schoolboy Q debut studio album Oxymoron.[25][26]

On March 26, 2014, R&B artist SZA released the single "Child's Play" featuring Chance the Rapper and produced by Dae One & XXYYXX.[27] Her debut studio EP, titled Z, was released on April 8, 2014 and was preceded by the release of the lead single, "Babylon", which was accompanied with a music video directed by APLUSFILMZ.[28] To promote Z, SZA performed at several performance showcases at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas.[28] SZA made her chart debut in the UK, where Z charted at number thirty two, on the R&B Charts, during the week ending April 19, 2014.[29] Z debuted on the US Billboard 200 at number thirty nine, selling 6,980 copies in its opening week; the album also peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B chart.[30]

In May 2014, SZA announced she was planning to embark on a local tour and also began recording her third EP entitled A.[31] In July 2014, SZA featured on Kitty Cash's single "Moodring".[32] Later that month, SZA released a collaboration with Jill Scott called "Divinity".[33] On July 11, 2014, SZA released a video for her song "Julia" from Z.[34] In early October, Jhene Aiko tweeted SZA, which led to speculation that the two would be working together; however on October 23, 2014, Aiko announced that she would be headlining a tour entitled "Enter The Void tour" which would be supported by SZA and The Internet. The tour began on December 12 at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, California.[35] On November 18, 2014, SZA released a song called "Sobriety".[36]

2015–present: Ctrl[edit]

SZA performing in 2015 with label mate Ab-Soul

In September 2014, SZA revealed that A, initially planned as a third EP, would instead be released as her debut studio album.[37] Whilst working on her debut album, SZA began writing songs for other artists including Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Along with Rihanna and Tyran Donaldson, SZA co-wrote a song entitled "Consideration", which was featured on Rihanna's eighth studio album Anti (2016); besides writing, SZA was also featured on the track. SZA later performed "Consideration" with Rihanna live for the first time at the 2016 Brit Awards on February 24, 2016.[38]

In January 2017, SZA announced her debut album would be titled Ctrl, instead of A.[39] Also that month, she performed the lead single from Ctrl, titled "Drew Barrymore", on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. On April 28, 2017, SZA announced that she had signed her first major-label recording contract with RCA Records.[40][41] On June 9, 2017, SZA released her debut album, Ctrl, to universal acclaim from music critics, scoring an 86 out of 100 rating on Metacritic.[42] Ctrl debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200,[43] with 60,000 album-equivalent units, of which 25,000 were pure album sales; the album was supported by several singles, including "Love Galore", which peaked in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was later certified platinum.[44] Ctrl was ranked as the best album of 2017 by Time.[8]

On July 5, 2017, SZA announced an official North American headlining concert tour titled Ctrl the Tour, to further promote the album. The tour began on August 20, 2017, in Providence, Rhode Island, at Fête Music Hall, and is scheduled to conclude on December 22, 2017, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at The Fillmore Philadelphia.[45] Despite there being no European leg of the tour, on July 10, 2017, American singer and rapper Bryson Tiller announced that SZA would be opening for the European portion of his Set It Off Tour in support of his studio album True to Self from October 17, 2017, to November 30, 2017, separate from SZA's tour.[46]

In August 2017, SZA collaborated with American pop rock band Maroon 5 on their single "What Lovers Do" from their sixth studio album Red Pill Blues. The single reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.[47] This marked SZA's first top 10 hit as a featured artist on the hot 100. The following month SZA released a song entitled "Quicksand", which appeared on the soundtrack for HBO's Insecure,[48] and, alongside Khalid and Post Malone, was featured on the remix version of Lorde's single "Homemade Dynamite", from her second studio album Melodrama.[49] Also in 2017, SZA announced that she had been working on a joint album with Mark Ronson and Tame Impala.[50]

On November 28, 2017, SZA received five Grammy nominations including one for Best New Artist. She received the most nominations of any female artist for the 2018 Awards and was the fourth most nominated artist in total.[51] Despite this, she did not end up winning any of the awards she was nominated for.[52]

In January 2018, SZA featured with Kendrick Lamar on the track "All the Stars", which was released as the lead single to the soundtrack album of the film Black Panther.[53][54] The single peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and this made SZA's second top 10 hit on the chart, after Maroon 5, "What Lovers Do" which peaked at number 9 on the chart. SZA collaborated with Cardi B on the track "I Do" for the album Invasion of Privacy.


SZA performing in Toronto, Canada on the Ctrl the Tour in August 2017.

SZA's vocal style has been described as taking on the "lilt" of a jazz singer.[55] SZA is known as TDE's first female signee and first singer, which also drew attention during the early stages of her career.[56] According to Marissa G. Muller of Rolling Stone magazine, Rowe's vocals alternate between a "vapory husk and a sky-high falsetto".[57] Jordan Sargent of Pitchfork magazine labelled Rowe's vocals as being "chillwave" and "ethereal".[58] SZA disputes her music being labelled as hip-hop, R&B and pop, stating she often listens to a variety of music including Stevie Nicks, classical jazz, folk, and rap. Further, she said: "when you try to label it [her music], you remove the option for it to be limitless. It diminishes the music.”[59] SZA began writing songs due to being "passionate" about writing, and enjoyed poetry; when writing lyrics, SZA "freestyles" them in order to express whatever comes to her "mind", noting that it does not always make sense to herself.[17] Thematically, SZA's work contains "unravelling lyrics", that touch upon themes of sexuality, nostalgia, and abandonment.[10]

SZA musical style has been described as "alt R&B".[9] SZA songs are built over "layers of sliced, delayed, and reversed vocals" and contains "twists and mutates".[18][10] Reggie Ugwu from Billboard magazine finds her musical style to feature an "agnostic utopia dripping with mood", that straddles the "line between minimalist R&B, '80s synth pop and soul".[6] Rowe's music is primarily PBR&B and neo-soul, but has been noted for taking influences from a broad variety of genres including soul, hip hop, minimalist R&B, cloud rap, ethereal R&B, witch house and chillwave elements.[9] Michael Madden described SZA's musical genre as being "agnosticism corresponds", noting that her work is not just one style of music and is versatile, noting the musical style is not just "R&B, pop, soul, or one thing at all".[60]

SZA listens to Ella Fitzgerald for vocal influence,[61] and has said that Lauryn Hill is one of her personal influences.[11] SZA also cites a wide range of musical artists as influences,[17] including Meelah, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, LFO, Macy Gray, Common, Björk, Jamiroquai, and "a lot of Wu, Nas, Mos Def, Hov".[1] Speaking on her influences, SZA said: "[My] personal influences came from dancing with American Ballet Theatre and doing pieces to Björk [music]. That's the only time I had really any outside influence to music. So, the people that I fell in love with on a musical level were always much older. Jamiroquai is just, like, the shit for me."[12] During an interview, SZA said she is less inspired by strictly music, and more inspired by creating art in general; she has looked up to people who were not "typical artists" including her "favorite gymnast, ice-skater, saxophonist, painter, or movie director," continuing to say she was particularly inspired by film director Spike Lee.[12] During an interview with W, SZA spoke on her style influences, saying a large amount of her style inspiration comes from movies, including Wes Anderson films, praising his use of "pantone color palette" and that she "would love to dress like a character from Moonrise Kingdom. Or perhaps Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic."[62] Along with her music, SZA's image has been compared to neo-soul artists Lauryn Hill as well as Erykah Badu.[56] SZA's hair became a point of interest during the early stages of her career and she discussed it in interviews with Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.[11] During her performances, SZA tends to wear "free-flowing" clothes that are easy to move around in and has also been known to wear pajamas or baggy clothing onstage.[63]





Awards and nominations[edit]

American Music Awards[edit]

The American Music Awards (AMAs) is an annual music awards show created by Dick Clark in 1973.[64] SZA has received two nominations.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 SZA Favorite Female Artist - Soul/R&B Nominated [65]
Ctrl Favorite Album - Soul/R&B Nominated

ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 "Love Galore" (featuring Travis Scott) Award Winning R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Won [66]

BET Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 Ctrl Album of the Year Nominated
"Love Galore" (featuring Travis Scott) Coca-Cola Viewers' Choice Award Nominated
SZA Best New Artist Won
Best Female R&B/Pop Artist Nominated

Billboard Music Awards[edit]

The Billboard Music Awards are held to honor artists for commercial performance in the U.S., based on record charts published by Billboard magazine.[67] SZA has received one award from three nominations.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 Ctrl R&B Album Nominated [68]
SZA R&B Female Artist Won
R&B Artist Nominated

Billboard Women in Music[edit]

Billboard Women in Music is an annual event held by Billboard and were established to recognize "women in the music industry who have made significant contributions to the business and who, through their work and continued success, inspire generations of women to take on increasing responsibilities within the field".

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 Herself Rulebreaker Award Won [69]

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2019 All the Stars (with Kendrick Lamar) Best Original Song Pending [70]

Grammy Awards[edit]

The Grammy Awards are presented annually by The Recording Academy. SZA has received nine nominations.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 SZA Best New Artist Nominated [71]
Ctrl Best Urban Contemporary Album Nominated
"The Weekend" Best R&B Performance Nominated
"Supermodel" Best R&B Song Nominated
"Love Galore" (featuring Travis Scott) Best Rap/Sung Performance Nominated
2019 "All the Stars" (with Kendrick Lamar) Pending [72]
Record of the Year Pending
Song of the Year Pending
Best Song Written for Visual Media Pending

Hollywood Music in Media Awards[edit]

The Hollywood Music in Media Awards (HMMA) honors music in film, television, video games, commercials, and trailers. Nominations are determined by an advisory board and selection committee comprised by journalists, music executives, songwriters, and composers.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 "All the Stars" (with Kendrick Lamar) Original Song – Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Film Won

MOBO Awards[edit]

The MOBO Awards were established in 1996 by Kanya King to recognize artists on ethnicity or nationality in black music in the United Kingdom.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2017 SZA Best International Act Nominated [73]

MTV Europe Music Awards[edit]

The MTV Europe Music Awards are presented by Viacom International Media Networks.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2017 SZA Best Push Act Nominated [74]

MTV Video Music Awards[edit]

The MTV Video Music Awards were established in 1984 by MTV to celebrate the top music videos of the year. SZA has received four nominations.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2017 SZA Best New Artist Nominated [75]
2018 SZA Push Artist of the Year Nominated [76]
The Weekend Best Art Direction Nominated [76]
All the Stars Best Visual Effects Won [76]

NAACP Image Awards[edit]

An NAACP Image Award is an accolade presented by the American National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to honor outstanding people of color in film, television, music, and literature.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 SZA Outstanding New Artist Won [77]
Outstanding Female Artist Nominated
"Love Galore" (featuring Travis Scott) Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration Nominated
Outstanding Song, Contemporary Nominated

Soul Train Music Awards[edit]

The Soul Train Music Awards is an annual award show aired in national broadcast syndication that honors the best in African American music and entertainment established in 1987.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2017 SZA Best New Artist Won [78]
Best R&B/Soul Female Artist Won
Ctrl Album of the Year Nominated
"Love Galore" (featuring Travis Scott) Best Collaboration Nominated
2018 SZA Best R&B/Soul Female Artist Nominated [79]
“Doves in the Wind” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) Best Collaboration Nominated
“The Weekend” Song of the Year Nominated
“Broken Clocks” Video of the Year Nominated
The Ashford And Simpson Songwriter's Award Nominated

IHeart Radio Music Awards[edit]

The IHeart Radio Music Awards is an annual award show aired in national broadcast syndication that honours artists in the music industry.

Year Nominee/work Award Result Ref.
2018 SZA Best New R&B Artist Nominated
"Love Galore" (featuring Travis Scott) Best R&B song of the year Nominated
"Homemade Dynamite" (with Lorde, Khalid and Post Malone) Best Remix Nominated

See also[edit]


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  3. ^ Kellman, Andy. "SZA: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
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  5. ^ Lamarre, Carl (November 9, 2017). "SZA's 'The Weekend' Goes Platinum, Thanks Fans For 'Best Bday Gift Ever'". Billboard. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
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External links[edit]