The hype surrounding SOS, SZA’s first album since her 2017 debut breakthrough Ctrl, was astronomically high ahead of its December 9 release. That’s reflected in the demand for (and reactions to) her supporting North American arena tour that will kick off in February 2023 with Omar Apollo. But SZA’s expectations were low.
SZA began her guest spot on the Sunday, December 18 episode of the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast with the broad admission that she “100 percent did not think” she’d grow to have such intense commercial popularity, hates predictions because “it can set you up for embarrassment” and wishes “everyone would have no expectations whatsoever at all times.”
Around the 14-minute mark, host Brian Hiatt asked SZA to identify her low point in the SOS process. “That happened every month or so, every week, where I’d be like, ‘This f*cking sucks. I don’t wanna put this out at all,'” she said. “It also happened probably just a few times, like, maybe up until the last week.” The Grammy winner added that she’d even told her engineer that they could move to India and disappear if the reaction to SOS was sour, and she expected the album reviews to be poor when people complained about how old “Shirt” was when she dropped it.
Elsewhere in the 33-minute conversation, as noted in a Rolling Stone article separate from the episode itself, SZA touched on her inclination to resist outside expectations in the specific context of how smashingly SOS has been received as a 23-track body of work: “I never thought in a million years that people would like it. My dad’s visiting right now, with my mom. Everybody came down to make sure I didn’t lose my mind if the album went bad once it came out. And now we’re just hanging out, ’cause it didn’t go badly!”
The overwhelming response to “Ghost In The Machine” featuring Phoebe Bridgers feels like a microcosm of SZA’s fear on the front end, considering she told NME she was surprised the song came together so quickly.
Still, SZA is human, and she shared with Rolling Stone at the end of their 33-minute conversation that her forthcoming first-ever headlining arena tour is “so terrifying” because she has “this weird fear of no one coming.” She can probably put that fear to bed, as Pop Base relayed over the weekend that SZA’s tour has sold out.