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The Lasso

The Student News Site of Santa Rosa Academy

The Lasso

[OPINION] SZA Deserved Album of the Year at the Grammys

Kevin Winter
SZA deserved to win Album of the Year at the 2024 Grammys. Pictured here with her second Grammy of the night, Best R&B Song.

The Grammys have been a staple in the music industry for decades. This esteemed and somewhat polarizing institution is one many artists hold in the highest regard as it is seen as one of the highest forms of achievement an artist can receive as a music artist in the industry.

On Sunday, February 4th, the 2024 Grammys took place and many of the awards and snubs came as expected. Miley Cyrus took home her first ever Grammy award for Best Pop Solo Performance for 2023 hit, “Flowers” and later in the night, Record of the Year. Billie Eilish took home Song of the Year for “What Was I Made For”. And of course, SZA and Taylor Swift won awards in their respective categories. SZA took home three Grammys for Best Pop/Duo Performance for her single, “Ghost in the Machine featuring Phoebe Bridgers”, Best R&B Song for her hit song, “Snooze”, and Urban Contemporary Album for her critically acclaimed album, “SOS”. Taylor Swift won two awards, Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year, at the Grammys for her hit album, “Midnights”. Taylor Swift made history becoming the first artist to win Album of the Year four consecutive times.

Taylor Swift holds her record holding fourth Album of the Year win for her album, Midnights.

This may be a controversial opinion, but I am going to write what I feel. SZA had the true ‘Album of the Year’ and she should have won the award at this year’s ceremony, not Taylor Swift.

I want to make this clear, I am a huge fan of both of these talented women. Both Swift and SZA have been making the rounds in the industry as tour-de forces and it has truly been incredible to witness. They also have both shown love and respect for each other during this past year. Their respective albums, “SOS” and “Midnights”, both made a huge impact around the world and it was a great thing to witness as a music fan.

But, looking from a full body of work perspective, “SOS” was objectively the better and stronger album.

(All Music)

What SZA was able to accomplish as an artist on this album cannot be understated. SZA showcased exceptional honesty and vulnerability throughout her sophomore album, “SOS”, which allowed listeners to connect with her on a deeply personal level. Her lyrics explored themes of self-discovery, insecurities, and relationships in a way that felt relatable and genuine. SZA was able to successfully blend various genres, including R&B, soul, and alternative music, to create her own distinctive sound. The album’s production featured atmospheric beats, ethereal vocals, and innovative musical arrangements, demonstrating SZA’s versatility and creativity.

SZA’s sophomore album, SOS broke numerous records. Each song on “SOS” contributed to a larger narrative, effectively capturing the ups and downs of her journey through love, self-worth, hate, revenge, and navigating the complexities of adulthood. This cohesive storytelling made the album feel like a complete and immersive experience.

SZA’s lyrics and experiences resonated with a broad audience, particularly black women and people of color. She provided a voice for individuals navigating the challenges of identity and body image, and embracing their own uniqueness. SOS served as an empowering body of work, encouraging listeners to embrace their flaws and find strength in vulnerability.

Also, can we talk about how uber-successful her album was? If we are determining album of the year by commercial success, “SOS” was very successful in terms of longevity. Debuting at number one on the Billboard 200, the album broke the record for the largest streaming week for an R&B album in the US. It spent a record-breaking ten weeks on the Billboard 200, which made it the longest number-one female album of the decade and the first R&B album to spend its first seven weeks atop the chart since Whitney Houston’s self-titled album, in 1987. The fact that SZA was able to achieve long-term success with an R&B album, in a music industry that is mostly dominated by pop and rap, is truly an amazing feat to accomplish.

Needless to say, by acknowledging SZA’s accomplishments, I am in no way trying to diminish Swift’s accomplishments or the massive success “Midnights” had as well.

As I said before, I liked “Midnights”. I thought it was a solid album filled with many standout songs. Taylor Swift’s masterclass songwriting is truly at an all-time high with this record. “Midnights” was also massively successful, selling one million copies in its first week and breaking the record for the highest single-day streams on all music platforms. That is an amazing accomplishment, especially in this day and age. But to me, “Midnights” lacked the nuance of Swift’s best work in the past and seemed like the ‘safe choice’ win the Grammy voters were going for. In terms of quality, to me, “SOS” is the far more superior album.

To help broaden my opinion, I spoke to those with various opinions on the ongoing album of the year debate.

“As someone who loves SZA and Taylor, I wasn’t too disappointed about this nomination.”
Jaclyn Randloph, a senior said. “ Taylor and Sza have shown admiration for each other and are both in different genres. I find myself listening to Sza more so I was a little disappointed, but Taylor has some great songs on Midnights. The Grammys have been super unfair this year.”

“I think Taylor deserved the Grammy. I mean both of them put in the work to be nominated.” Darina Dorame, a senior said.

“I’ve loved Taylor Swift’s music since I was little and I still do today.” Alina Abbott , a senior said. “No one can deny how great it is that she’s come this far, earning fourteen Grammys and winning album of the year four times. Even as a Taylor fan, seeing how big of a hit SZA’s album SOS was and her amazing performance that night, made me wonder why SZA didn’t win that award. She truly did deserve it after releasing such a heartfelt album.”

It’s very telling that SZA was the most nominated artist of the night, and came home with none of the main three categories. To me, this speaks to the ongoing conversation about black artists, specifically black female artists, always being shut out of the big categories at the Grammys. After all, Beyonce has the most Grammys of all time but has still never won Album of the Year. Lauryn Hill remains the last black woman to take home Album of the Year and that was back in 1999, 25 years ago.

Lauryn Hill remains the last black woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys.
Pictured here at the 1999 Grammy Awards.

If this year’s Grammys can tell you anything about being black in the music industry, it’s that you can have all the critical acclaim, commercial success, hit singles, and still, when it comes to snatching up Album of the Year at the Grammys, all of that hard work is shot at of the window.

Even with my frustration, it’s important to note that SZA still had one of the most incredible years in music history, the fact that she was able to accomplish so much as a black female artist is truly a testament to her spectacular artistry.

It is important to remember that the Grammy Awards are just one measure of success and recognition in the industry. Artists should not solely define their worth based on awards or accolades, but rather focus on creating authentic and impactful music that resonates with their audience.

At the end of the day, music is subjective, and different albums may connect with different individuals in unique ways. It is the emotional response and personal connection that an album creates that truly matters. So, while SZA not winning Album of the Year may feel disappointing, it should not overshadow the accomplishments and impact SZA had on her listeners.

SZA pictured at her sold-out Chicago Show during her SOS Tour in 2023.
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About the Contributor
Danielle Okogho
Danielle Okogho, Copy Editor
Danielle Okogho is a senior at Santa Rosa Academy. She joined journalism this year because of her love for writing and wanting to get involved with the school. Born and raised in the vibrant Orange County CA, she has been to London, Paris, Belgium, and Nigeria and wants to go to Italy. Her hope for college is to go to the University of San Diego. She likes to write, play basketball, watch movies, and listen to R&B and pop. Her favorite artist right now is SZA. She is a Marvel fan and loves Black Panther and X-Men.  Her favorite movies are The Dark Knight and Back To The Future. Her goals for this year is to make the most of it, maintain her grades, and keep it positive.
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    Vivien EmekpeMay 25, 2024 at 4:25 am

    Great work with much effort put into it, well done!