Song of the Week: SZA Goes Grunge on “F2F”

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Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, SZA turns up the volume for her standout S.O.S cut “F2F.”

SZA goes grunge” was not a sentence I was ever expecting to write, but when the mastermind singer-songwriter teased her new album S.O.S a couple weeks ago, she mentioned she’d be drawing upon “surf rock and grunge” alongside her usual contemplative R&B sound. With “F2F,” an unexpected highlight on an otherwise immaculate collection of songs, we see what she meant: “F2F” is a pop punk jam through and through, and it’s a satisfying combination of SZA’s bright, silky-smooth voice with a good helping of grit and drop D guitars.

Like many of the songs on both S.O.S and her previous effort Ctrl“F2F” — which also features a writing credit from Lizzo — is rooted in guitar, a strong choice that frequently allows SZA to mine more intimacy and expressiveness from these songs. Here, she uses a more muscular arrangement to create stronger contrasts. When she lands on “I hate me enough for the two of us” in the chorus, singing almost jubilantly with an anthemic high harmony above her, it’s a jagged line that puts the whole song in perspective.

SZA oscillates between longing and dragging herself for longing; she laments the games she plays with her ex, but then still finds room to justify those same games. All the while, she stumbles upon vulnerable truths, eventually asking the central question, “Will you call me?/ Will you hang me out to dry?”

She finds a fascinating balance between the major key enthusiasm of pop punk and the dejected anger of slacker rock, and it provides a refreshing turn of energy on S.O.S. But “F2F” is also a testament to SZA being able to pick literally any style, any genre, and still make it sound dazzlingly good. It’s not quite accurate to say that SZA is fearless on S.O.S — she frequently spells out her fears, insecurities, and the causes of her anguish throughout all of her discography — but it’s certainly true that she’s getting a lot more confident in making sonic statements like “F2F.”

Often, SZA’s impressionistic sound will unite listeners through isolation. You feel her beat changes like intrusive thoughts, and by the time she’s onto the next one, you’re already knee deep in her tangled web of insecurities and relatable truths. But on “F2F,” SZA uses a different tactic and shifts to something more active and anthemic. Her anguish is visceral, the sex at the core of the song is far from romantic, and the emotional turmoil forces her to move outward before inward.

If she can still create a bafflingly good pop punk song while retaining the essence of what a SZA song can and should be, it points to SZA as being in a truly untouchable position in music right now. In short, no one can do it like SZA. We’re so lucky to have her.

— Paolo Ragusa
Editorial Coordinator

Honorable Mentions

Biig Piig, Deb Never – “Picking Up”

Following a series of versatile singles, Biig Piig is back with “Picking Up,” which features the similarly genre-flexible artist Deb Never. Biig Piig describes “Picking Up” as a song about “wanting to run, get outside of your body, or go and punch something,” and it’s certainly evident in the bustling drum n’ bass percussion that drives the chorus. Recruiting Deb Never for the song is another terrific choice — her crystal clear voice adds power to the top line, making “Picking Up” an intriguing, energized effort from the pair. — P.R.

Paige Su – “Involuntary Adventures”

On “Involuntary Adventures,” Taiwanese singer-songwriter Paige Su delves into the erratic nature of life. Meditating on death, the universe, and the perils of love, she sings, “It entangles us/ In these irresistible involuntary adventures.” Her pensiveness is scored by a grandiose melding of jazz and trip hop. All the while, Su’s vocals are alluring, driving home every word. — Joe Eckstein

Dove Cameron – “Girl Like Me”

Continuing her metamorphosis into full-fledged pop star and all-around It Girl, Dove Cameron puts an ultramodern touch on Edwyn Collins’ 1994 release “Girl Like You.” With a pulsing beat under the chorus and a slinky guitar riff under Cameron’s coy vocals, the song is dripping with seduction. Where Collins’ original feels rooted in rock, Cameron’s reimagined version of the track is a club-ready fever dream. — Mary Siroky

alltheprettythings – “Teenage Lines”

alltheprettythings dial up the stakes on their new song, “Teenage Lines,” with singer Logan Tabor showcasing his otherworldly range throughout the entirety of it. They waste no time beating around the bush, with Tabor singing immediately into the first verse that he wants to “get to the heart of it,” all before spelling out his vices and inability resist temptation. It’s an anthemic turn from a band whose sound recalls newer emo and hard rock-leaning groups like Palaye Royale, as well as older acts like 30 Seconds to Mars and Saosin. When you get to the heart of “Teenage Lines,” it’s clear that this is a song they seriously connect to. — P.R.

Blondshell – “Veronica Mars”

Being able to pack satisfying dynamics and a feeling of completeness into a tune that’s less than two minutes long is a special skill, yet indie up-and-comer Sabrina Teitelbaum, who performs as Blondshell, makes it look as easy as watching your favorite cult-classic TV show. Teitelbaum’s new track “Veronica Mars’’ builds on a solitary guitar before exploding into an anthemic indie rock barn-burner. Throw in references to the titular show and standout lines like “Logan’s a dick/ I’m learning that’s hot,” and you’ve got an endlessly replayable, deeply rewarding little jam. — Jonah Krueger

corook – “stacy’s mom”

Even at her most low-key, alt-pop songwriter Corinne Savage, aka corook, brings a unique quirk to everything she does. From goofy, upbeat tunes like “snakes” to the more somber “it’s ok!”, her songs bring detailed textures that immediately identify the track as one of hers. Her new take on Fountains of Wayne’s pop-rock mega-hit “Stacy’s Mom,” however, strips it down to the bare essentials: her voice and an acoustic guitar. The cover transforms the original’s irreverence into surprisingly touching beauty. Savage’s choice to flip the gender of the narrator only furthers this, as the subtext changes from a teenage boy’s horny fantasies to a member of the LGBTQA+ community coming to terms with their identity. It’s a thoughtful rendition and one that shows the multitudes of corook. — J.K.

UPSAHL – “Kickflip”

It’s officially Sagittarius season, and UPSAHL intends to celebrate in style. Her new EP, named after her horoscope sign, continues the genre-fluid trend the vocalist and songwriter has established throughout her discography. UPSAHL particularly digs into empowerment and confidence with this collection of songs: “I don’t care how you feel about it,” she growls on “Kickflip” before diving into the descending melody of the chorus. Whatever rabbit hole she’s falling down here feels all too inviting. — M. Siroky

The Tubs – “Dead Meat”

Striking a balance between canonized indie acts like R.E.M. or The Smiths and more contemporary, post-punk revivalists like Fontaines D.C., The Tubs’ “Dead Meat” is an intensely catchy, wonderfully jangly, slightly aggressive good time. With notes of classic punk and British folk music, the tune swings back and forth between a more-spoken-than-sung lead vocal and a harmonized melody that approaches Michael Stipe-levels of subdued beauty. As the title track to the group’s upcoming album, it should spark the interest of anyone particularly invested in indie music’s history. – J.K.

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Song of the Week: SZA Goes Grunge on “F2F”
Paolo Ragusa and Consequence Staff

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