BY CARLISA JOHNSON
TDE’s songstress SZA delivers her debut album which is nothing short of perfection. ‘Ctrl’ was released on Friday June 9, 2017, a date originally announced by Wu-Tang frontman RZA giving a co-sign to the New Jersey singer. The album consists of 14 tracks primarily written by SZA and features guest vocals from Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad, Travis Scott and James Fauntleroy. Production comes from primarily Carter Lang, Antydote and Bekon among others who sonically mesh well with SZA’s captivating voice.
The album itself is built on the idea of “control” in the internet age. It’s so hard to keep track of everything going on because of the internet. On the cover alone we see SZA pose in front of aged computers illustrating the time in which the stories on the album take place. Ultimately it stems back to trying to find connections outside of the internet.
The first track is “Supermodel” in which SZA airs out her dirty laundry sparked by a situation where her boyfriend cheated on her in Vegas and her gaining revenge by sleeping with her friend. Damaging as that was, the song reflects on her self image and wanting to be looked at like a supermodel by her significant other. Track two is the lead single “Love Galore” featuring Travis Scott which is more focused on discovering self worth, and leaving behind loveless intimacy followed by vagina-inspired “Doves In The Wind”. SZA links up with labelmate Kendrick Lamar who effortlessly raps about the power of the P and what lengths men will resort to for it.
The project progresses to track four, “Drew Barrymore” in which SZA puts herself in the shoes of the actress in movies like Never Been Kissed and Poison Ivy where she plays nerdy, unattractive roles and yearns for the attention all the popular girls receive. The first line of verse two “I get so lonely, I forget my worth” perfectly describes that character she’s portraying who ultimately finds self love.
The album takes a more pop-influenced turn on “Prom” inspired by living in that big moment while reflecting on what’s to come which flows into “The Weekend” a fan favorite which is sung from two perspectives, the sidechick that doesn’t care and the girlfriend that doesn’t know. “Go Gina” is an obvious Martin reference all about stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes for some “get right” to balance out the seriousness of life.
Track eight, “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” follows her relationship with a guy and fears of it falling apart due to insecurities and fear of revealing a hidden side of a person. At the end of the song theres a cut from a conversation featuring SZA’s grandmother showing her roots and the important to “stand your ground” and “stay out of the way” if the foundation of a relationsip isn’t right.
Track nine is “Broken Clocks” centered around struggling to find time between her work life and love life. SZA mentions being on the clock and hours running together but the fact that the song is entitled “Broken Clocks” could mean that the situation wasn’t really going anywhere in both her career and love life. So now she’s moved on but the love that was once there remains frozen in time.
After a short interlude featuring James Fauntleroy, SZA accepts the fact that she’ll never quite be a “Normal Girl”. The last two songs are more grounded with emphasis on moving forward. Track 13, “Pretty Little Birds”, features Isaiah Rashad and a dream-like tone representing the heavens she hopes to reach with her lover. “20 Something” is the perfect way to sum up and close this album. SZA is still very young and figuring things out, as most people in their 20s do. The album closes with a clip from conversation with her mother: “If it’s an illusion, I don’t want to wake up. I’m just going to hang on to it.” In short CTRL is about stepping away from the things you can’t control and seeing things for what they are.