After several genre changes, three rough cuts, and an intense renaming ceremony, SZA has finally released her debut album Ctrl under her first professional label.
The word organic doesn’t even begin to describe the album. SZA notes how she went to a secluded cabin with her friends (who just so happen to be producers), set up studios in different parts of the house and ‘made stuff on our own time’. The idyllic conception of ‘Love Galore’ featuring Travis Scott, happened in this natural environment as well as a few other tracks, unfortunately, dropped from the final release.
The narrative of the whole album follows the phone calls of SZA’s mother and grandmother’s giving her life advice. This a is a very popular style of inspiration in recent years, similar to that of Drake and Frank Ocean, allowing the musician to open dialogue with themselves.
Throughout the record, SZA tries to figure out the level of control she has over her relationships. ‘Drew Barrymore’ has some sporadic tone changes, in which she comes across insecure but in the end, realises she doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. Later, she even contemplates sharing a man just for ‘The Weekend’, and she states that many men have more than one woman, so why act oblivious.
‘Garden’ is a standout and showcases all of SZA’s talents. Her incredible range, honest writing and her ability to put all her insecurities on display, all come into the spotlight on this track. Her voice wraps intricately around the beat on this track about body insecurities, the stuff you think to yourself but never have the confidence to say aloud, let alone ask anyone else about. Her inability to let anyone else see who she is, is something very relatable for everyone. Whether you’ve ever been in love or not.
There is plenty on this album to appeal to everyone, reminiscent of old-school Destiny’s Child and Aaliyah. This is the female musician a generation has been waiting for. SZA uses words and ideas that usually are used to belittle women and makes it accessible for all – ‘bright ideas we got bright ideas’.
She talks about sex and love so frankly, it would make your Sex Ed teacher proud. On ‘Doves In The Wind’ with Kendrick Lamar, she knows men see her as a thing of sex, but this doesn’t reduce her sense of worth. Instead, she wields it as a superpower: “I will make you beg for it, I wanna see you crawl”.
From working with the likes of Rihanna and Chance the Rapper to almost quitting her musical career, this album took a long time to get here, but boy aren’t we glad it did. The purity and honesty in this piece are what makes it so great, and it is something that has a true and meaningful message… as well as some banging tracks.