There are very few instances when you realize you’re watching an icon in the making. Nowadays, the words “legend,” “icon,” and “queen” get thrown around that they’re ultimately meaningless. It makes it even harder to articulate when someone does come along who truly encompasses every weight those words are suppose to carry.
Enter in SZA.
The singer has been climbing charts, charming critics, and collecting fans with her album CTRL, which is easily one of the best albums of the year. SZA has been on tour in support of CTRL since its release, even making a stop in Los Angeles only a couple months ago. “This is essentially the start of tour again,” she explained to the audience at the Novo on Tuesday night. “Thanks for being the first stop.” Entering the stage accompanied by three band members, SZA started off her set with the simplistic but effective “Supermodel.” The crowd instantly became her backup singers and would continue to support her throughout the whole night. It’s a rare but humbling luxury to have this level of engagement between you and your audience and SZA soaked up every minute as everyone sang along to every song even taking over for her whenever she took a breath.
SZA has this magnetic presence on stage that goes beyond her impressive vocals (which is she is very, very good at). She told stories in between songs, like some artists do, but there was a casualness to it that did make it seem like she was hanging out with some friends rather performing in front of a room full of strangers. This feeling was also released through SZA’s movements on stage. She kicked, jumped, danced and everything in between throughout her one hour long set with a permanent smile plastered on her face. It was fun for SZA to be on stage, therefore it was fun to watch her be on stage.
I recall that back in the 60s when Tina Turner was making her break through in the music industry, she was described as the “female Mick Jagger,” only to be noted that maybe Mick Jagger was the male Tina Turner. There was this new female singer who not only could hold her own against the men but she absolutely annihilated them. While the direct comparisons sonically might not be there with Ms. Turner and SZA, that same electricity is easy to spot. There’s is a swagger, a confidence that brews beneath SZA’s performance. It’s quiet because it doesn’t need to be shouted; it is known. That type of quiet confidence is much more relatable than other “boss bitch” personas that we manufacture and desperately strive so and maybe that’s why SZA has resonated so quickly and so aggressively.
On CTRL, SZA is absolutely powerful in her vulnerability; she’s a flawed person but at the same time, she can be magic. And that is simply what it’s like to be in presence of SZA: pure magic.