SZA & Phoebe Bridgers Search For Connection On “Ghost in the Machine”
“I need humanity / You’re like humanity, drowning in vanity / Craving humanity.”
Move aside, CTRL. There’s a new SZA project dominating the airwaves. On Dec. 9, the R&B singer dropped her highly anticipated album, SOS. The record is an impressive release and sees SZA embracing those nostalgic, lo-fi synths that put her on the map in 2014. SOS brims with bops; however, it’s her track, “Ghost In The Machine,” featuring Phoebe Bridgers that truly stands out. It’s always the unexpected collaborations that hit the mark. Or, as SZA would say, hit different.
SZA and Bridgers sing about craving human connection. The subtly of their references allude to possible commentary on the music industry. In a November cover story for Billboard, SZA lamented how draining it is to be a high-performing musician. “I could literally burst into tears and run through this wall at any moment. I am effectively falling apart,” she said. “Life is f*cking hard. To be expected to do anything at a high level while life is life-ing is f*cking crazy. This isn’t meant for a person; it’s meant for a machine.”
It seems she’s elaborating on these emotions in “Ghost in the Machine,” reminding herself that she’s not a machine but a person. However, it’s the constant expectation to churn out content that can often make her feel more hollow than rooted in her body.
Over synthetic harps, SZA coos about looking for her version of Eat Pray Love but struggling to find it. She’s yearning for a stimulating connection— a relationship that can organically grow into something memorable.
“Everything disgusting, conversation is so boring / Heard about what? / ‘I hate her, I don’t agree, I did it first’ / I give a f* ck / I just wanna f*ck, eat, sleep, love happy,” she sings.
In the infectious chorus, SZA hints that she found a temporary beau in her search for a connection.
“Can you distract me from all the disaster? / Can you touch on me and not call me after? / Can you hate on me and mask it with laughter? / Can you lead me to the ark? What’s the password?” she coos as those soft harps ripple into a symphonic beat.
By the second verse, SZA has switched to a pluckier tempo and references robots. She sings,
“Let’s talk about A.I., robot got more heart than I / Robot got future, I don’t, robot could sleep / But I don’t power down, I’m wide open, I’m awake / I’m on autopilot, I’m out of my mind and I’m wide open.”
SZA won’t be an Ashley O. She isn’t a robot of the music industry. She’s human in all its mess and glory. Bridgers then comes in with her breathy verse, showing that disillusionment with notoriety crosses genres. She laments a partner for noting how fame changed her friendships. Sure, she might have friends on her payroll. However, her partner didn’t need to call her out for it. She already feels the brunt of that reality in her body — something a robot likely wouldn’t.
With their hushed voices, SZA and Bridgers’ verses settle on the same message: Their careers might force them to operate likes machines, but there’s real damage this type of operation causes. Sounds like both artists need a recharge. They’ve certainly earned them.
Read the full lyrics to “Ghost In The Machine” via Genius.
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