At Friday’s BET Experience concert featuring SZA, Chris Brown, Ella Mai, and Teyana Taylor, the “Ctrl” artist executed a full set rife with experimental runs and riffs that tested her vocal range beyond the melodies. Between songs, SZA expressed her gratitude for the Staples Center audience’s support, as the show was her second live performance since she claimed on Twitter that her voice was “permanently injured.”
“You guys know it’s like my first or second time back out with y’all, so I’m very happy to be in my second home with y’all,” the singer said.
Fans feared they may never be able to see SZA perform again when earlier this month the “Love Galore” artist sent out the since-deleted tweet after performing a set at Madison Square Garden.
“Tonight was the test. That settles that,” SZA wrote in the thread. “I just wanna be left alone my priorities are f—ed up. They been f—ed up. I need space goodbye.”
But that goodbye turned out to be a see you later when the artist played the Firefly Music Festival after she took to Twitter again to rescind her statements and thank the “incredible team of doctors” working to nurse her voice back to health. Toward the end of her BET Experience set, she thanked the fans for their constant encouragement.
“I guess I was nervous about this even though this is low key home just because energy is energy,” SZA said before performing her hit “The Weekend.” “But I still appreciate how much y’all have been riding with me super heavy and showed so much love. Thank you to every one of you for even having time.”
Despite the scare, SZA performed much of her debut album “Ctrl” with little trouble, often deviating from the original tunes to hit higher, more complex notes and runs to audience cheers and applause. Her crowd-pleasing lineup included fan favorites “Love Galore,” “The Weekend,” “Go Gina,” “Normal Girl,” and “20 Something.”
Earlier in the show, British artist Mai played many of her hits as well, while Brown and Taylor followed SZA with dance-heavy sets. Mai opened the show, performing, among others, her singles “Boo’d Up,” “Naked,” and “She Don’t,” during which Ty Dolla $ign joined his collaborator onstage in a surprise guest appearance.
Brown’s lineup consisted of several brief versions of tracks ranging from oldies like 2007’s “Wall to Wall” to new songs like “Freaky Friday,” which garnered controversy with a music video that featured white rapper Lil Dicky using Brown as a mouthpiece to sing “n—” repeatedly. Despite playing in the BET Experience Weekend’s celebrity basketball tournament, Lil Dicky did not join Brown onstage to duet the single.
None of the artists in the lineup made any mention of Brown’s legal troubles, which have caused some to denounce the singer, who received a restraining order earlier this week from a woman for allegedly stalking and hitting her. Brown has had a history of alleged violence since he was convicted of assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. Though no one alluded to the scandal, SZA did not acknowledge Brown or tease his upcoming set to the audience, as is typically customary for openers.