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Tales of a 20-Something: How SZA’s Music Has Guided Me Through College, Heartbreak, and Being Alone

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bowling Green chapter.

One thing about me: I only really rotate between a few artists from (mostly) every genre of music. Most of my friends are up-to-date on new releases, albums, and collabs; meanwhile, I’m just now listening to Amy Winehouse and Deftones.

The way I listen to music is a little bit backwards. It’s not uncommon for me to take years to listen to the same songs or albums my friends had discovered when they were first released.

I discovered SZA’s music in 2020. I’m not sure if it was because of the pandemic so I started venturing into new avenues of music or if her music was meant to find me at this time; either way, I listened, and listened, and listened again… and something clicked.

via @sza on Instagram, October 6th, 2023

There was something about her songs that I didn’t feel with other music or artists. Maybe I hadn’t felt like any other music could describe how, or what, I feel, or maybe I didn’t know what I felt at all until I heard her songs.

SZA, whose real name is Solana Rowe, is an American R&B singer-songwriter from St. Louis, Missouri. Widely known for her popular songs “Good Days”, “Kill Bill”, and “Snooze”, SZA has a rich discography of music that unveils recurring themes of growing pains, break-ups & broken hearts, womanhood, and self-love. Her first album, Z, was released in 2014 and debuted songs featuring well-known artists including Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper.

By 2017, SZA dropped the album that would change the scope of R&B: CTRL, a record containing 14 songs (plus an extra 6 on the deluxe). This album contains some of SZA’s most notable songs, like “Normal Girl”, “The Weekend”, and “Supermodel”. One thing all of the songs in CTRL have in common: they’re from the perspective of a girl in her 20s, navigating her thoughts and feelings about herself and her relationships, despite how difficult it feels.

via @sza on Instagram, May 24th, 2017

In 2020, I had just turned 18. Before I went away to college, I thought for sure I had some sort of grip on myself, my emotions, and my external environment; it wasn’t until a year after moving into my first dorm (of many) that I realized that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. There’s something about being away at college that makes you so much more aware of everything; and it changes you, whether you realize it or not.

For me, what really changed was how I felt about myself and the situations I’d find myself in. There was a long period of time when I kept myself in an unhealthy relationship because of how scared I was to be alone and deal with a broken heart by myself. I stayed because at the time it felt better to just be hurt and not feel lonely than to feel free and be alone.

SZA’s music guided me through this specific era of my life, including two of my favorite CTRL songs “Garden (Say it Like Dat)” and “Drew Barrymore”. When I was still in that relationship, I was searching for anything that would help me feel heard and supported. As scared as I was to feel lonely, I was no matter what, because nobody around me really understood what I was feeling. I turned to these songs when I needed to hear my thoughts out loud: spoken (or sung) by someone other than myself.

After years of fans wondering when SZA was going to release another album, singles started being released on their own, such as “Good Days”, “Shirt,” and “I Hate U” (this one was my #1 streamed song of 2022, and guess which day I listened to it the most on? Valentine’s Day.)

In December of 2022, SZA’s third studio album was released: SOS. A record containing more songs than her other two albums, SOS quickly topped the charts with 23 songs. To conceptualize it in my eyes: this album is still a perspective through the eyes of a girl who is just navigating life, but now, she’s grown up; she knows what she wants and she’s being vocal about it. She’s still hurt, and she can admit when she feels lonely or can’t stop thinking about her ex, but she’s confident in her feelings. She’s not afraid to call them out or embrace them.

via @sza on Instagram, November 30th, 2022

Connecting this back to my own life, this album couldn’t have been released at a better time. SOS dropped four months after I ended my relationship, something that I had been anxiously avoiding for over a year and a half. As difficult as it was (and boy, was it) and as hard as I cried for the first few months, I (and not to sound cheesy here) finally felt…free. I was feeling so many different feelings at once and it was so overwhelming.

Somehow, SZA had (and has always had) a very raw and real way of uncovering every single thought that goes through the mind of a 20-something-year-old. Her strong emotions range in this album with songs from “Special” and “Nobody Gets Me” to “I Hate U” and “F2F”; all of which hit the spot depending on your specific mood.

There’s also something to be said about her ability to romanticize the woman experience; I’m talking the wine and face mask nights, sinks full of makeup while you’re getting ready, journaling during a full moon — the kinds of things that make being a woman so special. Even though her lyrics speak perfectly to me when I’m going through something rough, she has the perfect music for getting ready, pregaming with your friends, or for when you just want to dance around your room alone in your new outfit from SKIMS (I definitely have never done this…). Her songs like “Low”, “Used” (feat. Don Toliver), “Percolator”, “Good Days” (of course), and “Snooze” are all amazing examples of some of her feel-good (or, at least, not too heart-achey) music.

I’m not one to talk too much about music or artists, but SZA and her music will always have a special place in my heart. There aren’t many songs out there that really capture how it feels to be a girl in your early to mid 20s. Life isn’t always pretty, or aesthetic, or even fun. Womanhood sometimes means seeing red, setting boundaries, or processing your feelings and crying for hours, and honestly — it’s all apart of the journey.

I’ve grouped up some of my favorite SZA songs with verses that hit different (IYKYK) and have resonated with me one way or another, at some point in my life. If you don’t listen to SZA or have never heard of her before, I strongly recommend listening to at least ONE of these songs.


Garden (Say it Like Dat) (CTRL)

“Open your heart up
Hoping I’ll never find out that you’re anyone else
‘Cause I love you just how you are.

Drew Barrymore (CTRL)

“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 think I need therapy.”

“Sorry, I just need to see you
I’m sorry I’m so clingy I don’t me to be a lot
Do you really wanna love me down like you say you do?
Give it to me like you say you do? ‘Cause it’s hard enough you got to treat me like this
Lonely enough to let you treat me like this
Do you really love me?

Normal Girl (CTRL)

Love the way I pump my fist or how I bust my hip
For your affection, tryna be down
No fighting and no stopping
Stick around.”

“Wish I was the type of girl that you take over to mama
The type of girl, I know my daddy, he’d be proud of.”


“Hurry now, baby, stick it in
‘Fore the memories get to kicking in
It’s too late, I don’t wanna lose
what’s left of you
How am I supposed to tell you
I don’t wanna see you with anyone but me?
Nobody gets me like you

“If I’m real, I deserve less
If I was you, I wouldn’t take me back
I pretend when I’m with a man it’s you.”


“Boy, you got me f***ed up, now I’m gettin’ f***ed up
Thinkin’ ’bout us f***in’, why you’d have to f*** her?
I don’t wanna see you, why’d you have to treat me
Like I was an ordinary girl?”

I wish I was special
I gave all my special
Away to a loser


“I been thinking ’bout you, haven’t got much sleep
Worried that you already done replaced me

Smoking on a backwood ’cause I miss my ex
Now I’m ovulating and I need rough sex
Knowing you gon’ block me tomorrow, can you still come and get me?”

“I f***ed him ’cause I miss you
I f***ed him ’cause I really miss you
I f***ed him ’cause I miss you


“Trippin’ ’bout your whereabouts
I can’t keep no conflict with you
Boy, can we just rub it out?

“Sh*tty of you to make me feel just like this
What I would do to make you feel just like this
And if you wondered if I hate you (f*** you)”



“I can not love everybody
But you isn’t anybody
You look at me different
So I let you see my body.”

“Still, it was worth it
I would do it again
I know you hurt me, but
But this is deeper than friendship now
Let’s keep it awkward.”


“I could see everything you would be doin’
I could see everything, lookin’ at me like you love me
I know you don’t love me
I never care long as I come first, you come on time
I reverse, you rewind, do it again
Stuck in time, do it again.”


“Been about three years since I dated you
Why you still talking ’bout me like we together?
I moved on for the better
You moved on to whoever
I was down for whatever and then some.”


“I’m so mature, I got me a therapist to tell me there’s other men
I don’t want none, I just want you
If I can’t have you, no one should.”


“Can’t lose myself to your ego, I wanna say
Love me better when you try less
I don’t take much, just need your honesty, oh
Love will work better when you confess
Feelings don’t need discussion
Spend my life discoverin’ new sh*t.”

Go Gina (CTRL)

“I’ve been dropping out, and I’ve been hanging out with my high friends
And we too stoned to pay attention now
I mean, really it’s same me, it’s old me, you know? Same sh*t
I’ve been on the low-key, grinding.”



“Squeezing too tight, boy, you’re losing me
Boy, you’re losing

Gone, gone girl, gone girl
You better learn how to face it
She’s gone, gone girl, so gone girl.”

“I decide what demons I digest
I’m just tired of repeating, I digress
Trying to find deeper meaning in nonsense
Trying to grow without hating the process.”


“Gotta get right, tryna free my mind before the end of the world
I don’t miss no ex, I don’t miss no text
I choose not to respond
I don’t regret, just pretend shit never happened
Half of us layin’ waste to our youth, is in the present
Half of us chasin’ fountains of youth and it’s in the present now.”


“In the dark right now
Feeling lost, but I like it
Comfort in my sins, and all about me
All I got right now
Feel the taste of resentment
Simmer in my skin.”


“20 something, all alone still
Not a thing in my name

Ain’t got nothin’, runnin’ from love
Only know fear
That’s me, Ms. 20 Something
Ain’t got nothin’, runnin’ from love.”


℗ 2017 Top Dawg Entertainment, under exclusive license to RCA Records


℗ 2022 Top Dawg Entertainment, under exclusive license to RCA Records
Alexis is a Wellness Writer for Her Campus and a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University. Her passions include graphic and digital design, her spirituality, content creation, trying new recipes, writing, and inspiring other women. She enjoys writing about womanhood, life as a 20-something, and relationships. She also has her own blog, her glow, that she started in 2021 and has been building ever since.