Single Review: Kendrick Lamar & SZA - All The Stars | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Single Review: Kendrick Lamar & SZA – All The Stars

Kendrick Lamar & SZA's collaborative track sounds great on paper, but offers the best qualities of neither artist, says Greg Woodin

‘All the Stars’ is essentially a throwaway film tie-in (promoting Marvel’s Black Panther), so it almost seems unfair to judge it by the same standards as a regular single. But with the talents of Kendrick Lamar and SZA combining on this track, there was reason to believe it would be a cut above your average superhero film filler. Unfortunately, though this is an undeniably pretty song, the strong personalities of Kendrick Lamar and SZA become somewhat watered down here as they set their sights on the mainstream.

The fierce femininity, the fiery yet controlled delivery, the confessional lyrics – all these qualities are absent
If you were hoping for a return to the vagina-hailing sex politics of Kendrick collab ‘Doves in the Wind’ from SZA’s debut album Ctrl, you’d be sorely disappointed. Make no mistake: this is a pop song. Kendrick has just one verse on this thing, and the only other time he appears is to provide a refrain so distorted and synthesised that it could be practically anyone singing it. This is a recurrent theme throughout the song; while SZA’s hook is very nice, for instance, there’s nothing especially SZA-y about it. The fierce femininity, the fiery yet controlled delivery, the confessional lyrics – all these qualities are absent. You could throw practically any powerful female vocal on this track and it would tick the boxes. And Kendrick’s lyrics are simpler than we’ve become accustomed to, eschewing his typically verbose rhymes in favour of a catchier flow. This more stripped-back style does, admittedly, work well, and it’s good that he’s able to dial it back when he needs to, but I can’t help but feel that this abandoned verbosity is an essential part of what makes Kendrick Kendrick.

The lack of either artist’s signature style on this song is especially disappointing seeing as Kendrick and SZA were two of the most exciting musicians of 2017. Perhaps if I weren’t already familiar with their material, it’d be easier to appreciate ‘All the Stars’. Indeed, it’s difficult to hate the song, what with its ear candy production and polished vocal performances, but it just doesn’t really do or say anything interesting. Maybe I’m missing the point – it is a superhero tie-in, after all. But with the talent that’s gone into this track, it could have been so much better.

Kendrick Lamar will play the Genting Arena on 9th February 2018. 

Studying MA by Research English Language and Applied Linguistics


11th January 2018 at 9:00 am

Images from

XXL Magazine