‘Good Days’ Sza here for soul and r&b fans

Sza is enjoying her most successful single of her career and it has turned into an unlikely global smash, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
‘Good Days’ Sza here for soul and r&b fans

Sza is enjoying her most successful single of her career with ‘Good Days’, and it has turned into an unlikely global smash.

A slow-burning jazzy gem that is true to her style, it is very refreshing to hear it all over mainstream radio in 2021. It wasn’t even originally meant to be a single, but it now follows her previous track ‘Hit Different’ in garnering lots of attention and it sets up her forthcoming second proper nicely.

It’s always great when an artist doesn’t have to compromise their sound when achieving mainstream success and Sza’s path during the last 10 years has been very impressive. Some early EPs had already really established her among music fans, and even before she released her debut album Sza had written for big hitters like Rihanna, Beyonce and Nicky Minaj. Collaborations with Rihanna herself plus Maroon 5, Kendrick Lamar, Lorde and DJ Khaled also helped her profile, but Sza is very much her own artist.

Her influences range from the jazz and neo-soul greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu right up to artists from other music genres such as Bjork and Stevie Nicks.

Sza is also one of those artists whose path was helped slightly by the extraordinary success of Aaliyah on her second and third album. Aaliyah’s success was in many ways a sign of what was to come, and it helped pave the pay for many other singers to be more brave artistically when it came to r&b and soul. Aaliyah and the others that followed also had their doors opened by those who went before, and in the modern era it’s hard not to look at Janet Jackson influence too.

In the post Aaliyah world things are certainly a lot more open. The aforementioned Lauyn Hill and Erykah Badu had exploded both artistically, critically, and commercially in the late 90s and early 00s, and for women in particular, there were now more lanes in which to operate.

The record industry was often slow to catch up and often packaged artists wrong. The United States is notorious for its often almost racial segregation when it comes to music, and sometimes black American singers are expected to stay on simpler paths. Radio is often very conservative and segregated there too, so when artists such as Solange emerged, circumstances sometimes made it very difficult for them to breathe.

Solange first emerged as a pop artist who was being marketed as being simply Beyonce’s sister, and the label did little more than provide her with big name producers and features. A very young Solange herself was lost in the mix and the album performed poorly, making her retreat from the spotlight. She eventually emerged as her own artist with her own ideas and she has since carved out an amazing career for herself by being nothing like her sister without the expectations of pop success hanging over her. Things have progressed greatly and big stars such as Beyonce and Rihanna have now gained the trust necessary for them to release the bravest music of their careers too.

Sza has emerged in this era where artists such as The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Janelle Monae and many others have made some incredible music, far from the formulaic r&b that record companies would have pushed on them first day. Many have now done so independently and come through the side door, and it’s not alwaysbeen a smooth ride. But the doors are now open and it pleases me greatly that these artists have such a huge platform in 2021.

Sza’s ‘Good Days’ might have dropped in the 70s, but it’s highly unlikely it would have been such a hit back then, and it’s great to see a young generation of singers controlling their own musical destiny with such style and panache. It really does bode well for her forthcoming album too.

Unfortunately there are no tours at the moment so we will have to wait a little longer to see Sza live, but I was one of the lucky ones to see her perform at Longitude a few years ago, and she is amazing on stage too. That Sunday afternoon Sza was joined on the bill by Anderson Paak, Solange, Kali Ushis and the Internet, in a line-up that was probably the country’s best ever for soul and r&b fans.

We live in great times for this music and Sza is one of the very best!

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