On Tuesday night (Jan. 10), the weather in New York City was a wintry mix of brisk winds and snow-turned-slush covering the sidewalks. It’s the season to catch a cold, for sure, and at an intimate show at the Neueouse, SZA revealed to her audience that she has bronchitis and a sinus infection. “It’s lit!,” she joked, before getting serious again. “I’m just excited to be here and get through things.”
The singer also owned up to delays of her long-awaited album, A, which is approaching two years of buzz without an actual release, following a string of soothing and experimental EPs like 2013’s S and 2014’s Z. “[I] didn’t have any soundcheck, so I’m incredibly nervous,” she admitted. My name is SZA. I’ve been taking long as f— to make an album.”
Still, the singer/songwriter born Solána Imani Rowe is appreciative of her fans’ patience, rewarding them with a private gathering for tastemakers, media, and lucky fans to hear new tracks and favorites. Downstairs in the play space, a large curtain hid SZA’s band, as they did a quick rehearsal before their 9 p.m. start time. The lights were dimmed more generously than usual, making room for red and pink stage lights to project and create a mellow atmosphere.
SZA is the type of artist that wants a close relationship with her fans on a human level. Wearing a “FRSH CTCH” black tee and comfortable jeans, she made her way to the stage by cutting through the crowd, giving some supporters a rare opportunity to speak to and touch their heroine. After expressing her shyness about premiering new material, she started with a song that contained minimal production and was anchored by a thick bass line.
“Done with these n—as/ I don’t love these n—as/ I dust off these n—as, do it for fun/ Don’t take it personal/ Personally, I’m surprised you called me after the things I said,” she sang. The untitled track, which centers around a shaky relationship where love prevails, showcases her strength in wanting to move on. She continued, “Why you bother me if you know you don’t want me?”
In the event that her bronchitis would hinder her performance, SZA played several versions of her new songs in their original form. For one track tentatively titled “Love Galore,” the audience was able to hear the vocals of Travis Scott, who plays the male counterpart in her love story, and sings of future baby plans: “Let me plant that seed inside ya.”
SZA looks so happy dancing to Love Galore (ft. Travis Scott) —- pic.twitter.com/zVdyYoNk7H
— travis scott fanpage (@YamzInTheTrap) January 11, 2017
The TDE songstress also revisited her early material. To much of the crowd’s delight, she powered through old gems like “Child’s Play,” “Hiiijack,” and “Babylon.” She also debuted another new song, titled “Temporary Lover.”
It’s not far off to say that this song could have been originally written for Rihanna, as the two previously collaborated on “Consideration” off 2016’s Anti. On “Lover,” SZA channels the same husky and strained voice as RiRi, singing, “Leave me lonely for prettier women/ You know I need too much attention for sh-t like that/ You know you wrong for sh-t like that/ I could be your supermodel if you believe/ If you see it in me, see it in me, see it in me/ I don’t see myself.” A live rendition of the same song that followed sounded just as vulnerable.
Her last premiere was a song titled “Drew Barrymore,” inspired by the actress, and her ‘90s films like Poison Ivy and Never Been Kissed. “I just imagine this being the soundtrack to one of those movies. Cue Freddie Prinze, Jr.,” SZA quipped. On the soft and glimmering number, she sings: “Am I warm enough for your outside baby, yeah/ Is it warm enough outside, inside me?” She gets reflective over her image, too. “I get so lonely I forget what I’m worth/ We get so lonely, we pretend that this works/ I’m so ashamed of myself, I think I need therapy.”
SZA didn’t announce a release date for her album, but seemed to be moving past the thought of quitting music (after saying that she was “over it” in a previous interview with Complex.) The singer appeared genuinely elated that everyone — including TDE president Terrence “Punch” Henderson who was watching from the side stage — enjoyed the new offerings, despite her being under the weather. As an encore, she re-performed one of her tracks before thanking her live band and making her exit, perhaps preparing herself for whatever comes next.