Album Review: SZA’s Ctrl


Author: Tehan Ketema

Solána Imani Rowe, known alluringly by the world as SZA, has been a megaphone to the voice of 20-somethings. Unafraid of being vulnerable and honest, both with her audience and in describing her own journey, SZA frees herself from any and all restraints of others’ expectations. With the pressures of getting signed, artists often fall short from their previous work, but SZA’s self exploration continues to allow us to grow with her, delving deeper into the realm of relationships and nostalgia. Ctrl busted 2017 open, alongside so many other poised Black artists with debut projects like Daniel Caesar’s Freudian, and Syd’s Fin. After years of waiting for SZA’s debut album, [we’re] never going back, never going back, you can’t make [us].”

Originally titled A, as an end to her trilogy of projects that would have spelled SZA, Ctrl sat on its Billboard Chart throne for over 20 weeks, roping in five nominations at the 60th annual Grammy Awards. Her break out single, “Love Galore” featuring Travis Scott, blasted on the radio and her concert tickets sold out faster than ever; her work was finally gaining widespread attention. Through her interviews and online presence, we began to uncover more of the meaning behind the lyrics. Her intricate songwriting skills kept us digging, unearthing more glitter beneath what was already gold. She clarifies that “The Weekend” lyrics, “my man is my man is your man, heard that’s her man too” is actually about three women getting played by one singular dude. Listeners, interviewers and/or haters received the song as a so-called “side-b**** anthem,” but like SZA said on Twitter: “First of all. U ain’t eem got no man.”

And that’s the beauty of SZA: she is a master at finding her chaos and hurt and making something absolutely enchanting. Her consistent futuristic soundscapes take us everywhere thanks to her producers, like ThankGod4Cody, who’s worked on Isaiah Rashad’s debut album The Sun’s Tirade, and Pete Scum Nebula, who worked on Kendrick Lamar’s acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly.

SZA crumples1 open the album with “Supermodel,” the song you listen to when you need to strut around your room, but also when you need to cry a little from the insecurities you may need to address. “Love Galore” is a smooth, club banger, the one where you holding your drink talking sh*t to the n*gga across the room (or the one in your head), “why you bother me when you know you don’t want me? Why you bother me when you know you got a woman? …when you know you know better?”. “Broken Clocks” comes in to remind us who the f*ck we are with a slow jam to sing our hearts out to. It happened to make President Barack Obama’s “Favorite Songs of 2017” list, so it’s definitely an undeniable banger for the books. SZA will leave you wondering if you should have had more control last year with your old boo thang, or if you didn’t lose enough.

With her unconventional and rich voice, rhythmic variation, and consistent sound, SZA sets herself apart from the crowd, landing on a win for her first album. Sublimely and proudly so, SZA submerges us into her world and we don’t dare to be anything but thankful.

“I’ve lacked control my whole life and I think I’ve craved it my whole life. I couldn’t really arrive at it and now, I’m not really looking to arrive at it anymore. I’m just happy to be present. It’s weird. If you try to control a future moment, it’s impossible. There’s no such thing as control anyway. It’s just a concept, a word, a fantasy. But if you focus on the way you feel in the now and what you do with the now, I feel like it leads to having true control in the future.” – SZA on what Ctrl means to her (via The Breakfast Club)


1 YOU ALMOST MISSED THIS GENIUS SH*T. This is a reference to the opening sound to the song “Supermodel” which sounds like a piece of paper CRUMPLING. The first lines also describe her writing a letter to a past partner. IF YOU A REAL STAN YOU SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN THIS, BUT IF NOT IT’S OKAY, WE MADE IT TOGETHER Y’ALL