It’s remarkable how SZA has been one of the most dominant musical forces of the year off of the strength of two officially released songs. Released last year on Christmas Day, “Good Days” reigned well into the new year. Her featured turn on Doja Cat’s massive “Kiss Me More” kept her in constant rotation, and then “Shirt / Bloodstain” went viral TikTok despite its unavailability on streaming services. Now for her latest offering, SZA finally succumbed to the power of TikTok and released “I Hate U” on streaming platforms. Originally posted on SoundCloud over the summer, “I Hate U” gained serious traction on TikTok (there are currently over 600,000 videos with the official sound), eventually resulting in its official release.
“I Hate U” finds SZA parsing through her post-breakup emotions over a murky ethereal soundscape. With production contributions from Robert Bisel, Carter Lang, Dylan Patrice, and ThankGod4Cody, “I Hate U” balances bleating synths with somber keyboard to create a relatively relaxed mood for SZA to ponder life and love. “I be so bored with myself, can you come and fuck me? / I feel so ordinary, sad when you around me,” she muses in the song’s first verse. Contradictory emotions mark familiar lyrical territory for SZA, but she has crafted a musical universe where there’s an innate comfort and security in not having things completely figured out.
In the song’s verses, she utilizes a rap-sung cadence to give the illusion of structurelessness before diving into a pristine pre-chorus and hook. That immaculate hook, “and if you wondered if I hate you / I do,” is what boosted the song to TikTok virality. Those lyrics should come off as corny, but they don’t. SZA builds her way up to the hook with lyrics like “I’ve been up, baby / Lost in the lie of us / Lost, ain’t no findin’ us” in the pre-chorus. The “fuck you” that comes in the hook isn’t a brash reaction, it’s a carefully considered feeling that she arrived at through her “heavy reminiscing.”
Lyrically, “I Hate U” is a home run. In addition, the mix, which almost drowns SZA’s vocal in the muddy synths, provides an interesting parallel to SZA’s journey wading through her emotions. From “Hit Different” to “I Hate U,” SZA hasn’t missed. It’s time for the album!