Friday, February 9th, 2024

SZA – Snooze

You won’t find us sleeping on this one!

SZA - Snooze

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: It’s only been a year and two months since SOS came out, but its big singles already feel less like contemporary pop hits and more like facts of the pop landscape – the bar, more or less, for sophisticated R&B-leaning pop, the marks that everyone else is trying to hit. Re-encountering “Snooze” as a song, then, is an experience of slight revelation. Every moment of “Snooze” is gorgeous; it’s a Babyface production in every way that matters, some real romantic shit in the truest sense of the word. Yet not a second of it would matter if not for the supreme skill with which SZA wields herself – she’s able to move from tenderness to pique to regret and back again with a fully manifested version of the ease she’s always had. 

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Heartbreak, detachment, revenge, existential dread even, yes, but has SZA ever expressed bliss like this? For all the praise that SOS received at the end of last year, the album has always read like an eclectic smattering of SZA’s range as opposed to a unified project. If there is a song that feels like the best representation of where SZA is in her career it’s “Snooze.”

Alfred Soto: Drowning in a sea of lust, Solána Imani Rowe has found the right mix of collaborators for a series of crystal(line) visions that state their cases with impressive fortitude and file out. The tension between the drum machine’s insistent thud — time goes by, so slowly, so slowly — and SZA’s long sentences made for some of the best radio listening of 2023. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: This is what SZA does best: sing like she’s somewhere between stream-of-consciousness ramble and effervescent daydream. Every chorus arrives with a clarity of her feelings, her vocal rhythms steady and her phrasing clear. This is a song that reminds you that life just makes more sense when you sing how you feel.

Ian Mathers: We don’t call people “crooners” anymore, do we? Not really. But that’s what it feels like I’m doing when I catch myself going “I can’t looooooooose when I’m with youuuuuuuuuuu,” albeit sounding about 1.4% as good as SZA does doing it. The song is about not wanting to snooze, but I kinda like that it’s got that drowsy feel.

Thomas Inskeep: SZA’s vocals can often be a barrier for me — I just don’t care for her tone, or maybe the way she’s processed on record — but the sheer plushness of “Snooze” pulls me in.

Katherine St. Asaph: SZA still has a way of attacking melodies from unexpected angles and an ear for plush midtempo tracks. Everything great about her past singles is present here. If “Snooze” came out before “Love Galore” or “The Weekend,” would it be the single I’d want to listen to instead?

Leah Isobel: Where Z soundtracked a million sleepless dorm-room nights and Ctrl felt like it sliced directly into my soul, SOS mostly passed me by. Maybe it’s just because I stopped smoking weed, but its glossy surfaces felt too enervated for my taste. Take “Snooze,” an impressionistic saunter through a relationship that — surprise — might just be a little toxic. Classic SZA stuff! But unlike the economic existentialism that bled through “Broken Clocks,” the energetic and despairing vocal on “The Weekend,” or the rap that cut sideways through “Child’s Play,” “Snooze” feels like it plays her tropes relatively straight: distantly warbling vocal sample, delicate guitar loops, crispy lo-fi drumbeats to study or relax to. After about a dozen listens, though, I noticed its mixed signals. Its title, for one: while it would seem to correspond with the song’s unhurried, loping warmth, it’s framed within the text as unthinkable: “How can I snooze and miss the moment?/ You’re just too important.” Then there’s the Scarface line, precisely splitting the difference on whether she’s supposed to be embodying Pfeiffer, Pacino, both at the same time, or the movie as a whole, as a cultural object. It comes to a head on the bridge, when her voice is pitched down and digitized as she vents spleen: “How you fronting on me when I’m the main one trying? / How you blame it on me and you’re the main one lying?” Is it the voice of her partner, or her conscience? Both? Neither? Is it directed to the audience? Is it directed from the audience to her? I’m still not sure — the song continues, placidly, that flash of grit like a buzzing alarm before I fall back asleep.

Nortey Dowuona: “I touch that fire for you.” The thin line between devotion and doormat is a very thin one. Fire when it touches flesh makes the skin tear and the fat and muscles contract, and touching it can hurt you deeply, especially if it engulfs you. Fire is created by fuel, oxygen, and a spark. SZA is the spark, her thin and curlicue voice creating seething friction (upon the slow, loping drumbeat played by Leon Thomas and Khristopher Riddick-Tynes), pressing and rubbing harder on the words “loooose” and “youuuu”, pressing so hard on “snooze” and “do.” The sparks fly and catch you in the eye and left-hand finger. The fuel is the beatwork by Babyface, Thomas, Riddick-Tynes, and BLK Beats, all of whom ladle gently the light, plush synths and velvety bass synth over it, with Thomas’s light tenor patiently wafting in and out of proceedings as needed. The oxygen is the line: “I touch that fire for you.” You can touch fire, let fire flicker, leave heaters, fans, even laptops on, and you will be engulfed, contracted, torn to pieces. And what if it isn’t even your laptop? And the person who left it with you left it because *insert the greatest fear you have in your closest intimate relationship, even if it’s with a friend*, and even when they’re with you, they’re somewhere else. But that is what love, or devotion, or desperation does to you. You have to risk letting them leave that laptop. And you have to trust they’re coming back for it. And the flames finally spring up around the bridge (where SZA is cradled by the patient vocal production and mixing of Rob Bisel in vocoding and Melodyne), begging the other person to stop hurting them, stop berating them, stop leaving the laptop cuz “you work in online banking and you go on trips constantly, yet you leave that laptop behind! Why am I crying if it has a malfunctioning battery?” I’ll touch that fire for you, and you won’t even try to unplug it. 

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