SZA’s long awaited debut album ‘Ctrl’, is a raw R&B album that tests the boarders of the genre. The cover of the album has SZA sitting amongst a bed of broken computers a far cry from the industrialised man-made life. She explains her vision behind her artwork as breaking away from our societies overly dependence on the internet and technology – constantly hiding behind our phone screens and social apps, in order to express our thoughts and feelings. Ctrl is a 14 track project that is stripped down to perfection, where sza puts her deepest insecurities on the forefront, however she puts on display her new sense of confidence and freedom on herself and her craft as well.
The album skips the friendly hello’s and goes straight into sza’s world, she breathlessly leaps between genres. Originally titled A, the debut album was supposed to conclude the trilogy of her self-titled release following 2013’s S and 2014’s Z, which was her official entry into the music industry. ‘’I’m talking a lot of grimy shit, but its truth,’’ she said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2016 when the album was scheduled to be released.
Over a lonely electric guitar riff, the opening track ‘’Supermodel’’, the sets the tone for the album: ‘’let me tell you a secret/I’ve been secretly banging your homeboy/why you in Vegas all up on valentine’s day?’’. The setup isn’t fictional at all, she revealed in the same interview with Entertainment Weekly that one of her songs on the album would be about her ex-boyfriend who left her on Valentine’s Day and she slept with his friend as revenge. ‘’It will be the first time he hears about it,’’ she said.
Ctrl is about sexual freedom while also having your hunger for intimacy be taken seriously. On the ‘’Doves in the wind,’’ Sza sings about Forrest Gump, as the kind of guy that sees women as more than just their bodies and who ‘’deserves the whole box of chocolates’’. Sza takes comfort in Forrest Gump character Jenny Curran, on her Z album the track ‘’warm winds,’’ Sza quotes Jenny’s “Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away’’ prayer. However, she finds solace in the sweetness which is offered to the adult Jenny by Forrest. And those sentiments bleed through on songs like ‘’Normal girl’’ which is about a being unable to find a partner who wants to take her home to meet his family and not just at home in his bedroom.
‘’Love galore’’ which features Travis Scott is the perfect anthem. Travis and Sza pose the question of the year with ‘’why you bother me when you know that you don’t want me?’’. Which is the most potent question in 2017 where loneliness is so much easier to combat finger-to-screen instead of face-to-face. The foil is in ‘’The Weekend,’’ a track that is about sharing a boyfriend with other women; the hook: ‘’my man is my man is your man, heard it’s her man, too’’, which has a tone of freedom as well as sadness which settles over the entire track. This female artist seems to know that there are adjustments one makes to boast their sense of self-worth and little lies we tell ourselves to turn a bad situation into something we believe we want.
However, the albums finest moment comes when we hear ‘’Prom’’, a meditation on the existing worry of youthful aging: ‘’fearin’ not growin’ up/keeping me up at night/am I doin’ enough/feel like I’m wastin’ time’’. You can easy hear some of the indie influence on some of the songs even though there are trap percussions especially on songs like Gadern (say it like dat).
With her debut album, Sza went outside of the confines of the R&B genre, which might be a contrast that is meaningless in the greedy context of 2017. She has the guts to say that it doesn’t feel shitty, that it is shitty because she is in touch with loves fragilities and she understands that it is worth protecting.