“That is my greatest fear. That if, if I lost control.Or did not have control, things would just, you know. I would be fatal…”
The opening lines from SZA’s LONG (emphasis on long) awaited debut album ctrl come from her mother sharing her idea of control and you’re instantly met with a sense of familiarity and love. We all know how it feels to want to be able to control the aspects of our lives that seem so attainable to manage yet quickly fall through our fingers once the universe decides to gain back power over our lives. Whether it be dealing with complicated relationships, figuring out a career path, or the basic yet difficult task of finding a genuine purpose in life; control plays a role in the essential parts of our lives. TDE’s First Lady has created an album dedicated to diving head first into life and those good and bad moments that are given to you.
If you follow my occasional updates of this site then you know that my love for SZA goes back to 2014 when I heard her mesmerizing, experimental debut EP Z and with each song release, music visual and interview, my love for the “Love Galore” crooner grows stronger. I’m late as fuck on talking about this album and I’m solely sharing my thoughts because there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t heard at least one song on ctrl since it dropped on June 9th of this year. The rave reviews have been shared. OG SZA fans continue to share their love for the amazing album and a slew of new fans are rejoicing for SZA’s genuine body of work. So let’s just vibe out to the album and share our thoughts on the relatable ode to life in our 20s:
During the beginning stages of promoting ctrl, SZA came to New York to share a few songs from the album to her dedicated fans in an intimate setting. While I sadly missed the show (still haven’t forgiven myself for not calling out of work) I got to hear a snippet of “Supermodel” and was quickly in shock of the blunt, give no fucks, SZA. On a minimal, guitar driven track, the rising star begins the savage track with, “I’m writing this letter to let you know / I’m really leaving / And no / I’m not keeping your shit / Heard you got some new homies / Got some new hobbies / Even a new hoe too…” The honesty quickly escalates when SZA admits to banging a dude that wasn’t her former lover on Valentines Day and I never get tired of hearing SZA get her revenge. I feel like more recently I’m hearing more songs on dealing with the effects of a bad ex from powerful women and I love to hear SZA’s proclamation not include her crying over some fuckboy that didn’t know her worth.
Truth bombs continue to explode with “Love Galore”, a summer bop featuring Travis Scott. Produced by Carter Lang and THANKGOD4CODY, “Love Galore” has SZA revisiting a past situation with a former flame. It can be challenging getting past a relationship even when you know you deserve better but SZA nails the ups and down of a love destined to end, On the catchy chorus, “Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me / Why you brother me when you know you got a woman / Why you hit me when you know you know better?” SZA asks a lot of good questions and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to a person that’s wasting their time and craving affection yet doesn’t actually want anything beyond a fleeting moment. SZA’s pettiness comes from the heart.
The good vibes never wavier with the Kendrick Lamar assisted “Doves In The Wind”. The mellow track is full of shoutouts to pu$$y and how love should also be given to the woman attached to the tantalizing body part. Kendrick smashes his part and the reference to Forrest Gump is perfect. Hopefully you deserve the whole box of chocolates like faithful Forrest.
An ode to “Drew Barrymore” is next and was the first single from ctrl. I can’t tell you guys how much I played this song when it dropped, envisioning the cinematic opening lines with SZA chilling at a party and seeing her old dude pull up with a new chick. I love how the song expands to this passionate hook that has a double meaning. “Am I warm enough for ya outside baby yeah / Is it warm enough for ya inside me me me me?” I feel like she’s asking am I giving you enough? Is my heart enough? Is my body enough? Insecurities and love can sadly go hand and hand sometimes and “Drew Barrymore” is the perfect example of that.
“Prom” threw me off at first listen. I wasn’t expecting SZA to be on this wave, rock tinged track but I quickly fell for the infectious track. SZA’s versatility on ctrl is so refreshing and it has me excited for her future full length releases. Now let’s get into the most talked about track on the album, “The Weekend”.
An anthem for sidechicks. A seemingly sad tale of a girl that starts off enjoying having half of someone’s attention. “The Weekend” got a lot of reaction mainly because of the provocative idea of SZA being okay with being the girl on the side. “I just keep him satisfied on the weekend / You’re like 9 to 5 / I’m the weekend,” SZA boldly claims over the confident hook. At first I imagine listeners vibing out to a women feeling so sexually liberated that she can get her weekend dick and keep it pushing but when you continue listening to “The Weekend” you realize that SZA isn’t taking the part time position out of choice. As you get older you realize how messy love can truly get, and while the idea of being a weekend girl may sound exciting at first, it most likely will leave you more alone and heartbroken than you started with.
But let’s not get too deep into our feelings. SZA picks the mood back up with “Go Gina”. “Go Gina” is a slight nod to the character Gina from the iconic sitcom Martin but also is a template of a woman who needs to play as hard as she works. Sometimes you need to just let loose and have a moment to enjoy the good parts of life. The seamless transition to “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” makes ctrl such an easy listen from beginning to end. The Diddy approved, breezy track has SZA wanting a sense of security from her lover and this song is currently my favorite track from the album.
The other half of ctrl is definitely on the calmer, introspective side with “Broken Clocks” touching on trying to find a balance of living life and having to work. One of the biggest challenges I’ve experienced in my 20s so far is trying to work as hard as possible to accomplish my career goals while still maintaining a social life and not sleeping my free days away. SZA just gets the 20s struggle! “Anything” and “Wavy (Interlude)” are two of the shorter songs on ctrl but what they lack in length, they make up in with good vibes and potential stand out live performances. I can already picture SZA going hard performing “Anything” live on her ctrl tour, especially when it hits the bridge (“DO YOU KNOW I’M ALIVE?).
“Normal Girl” is a very dope track that I hope gets a visual because I could see SZA creating a fun moment with this one. There are so many playful lines on this track and I never get tired of the opening lines of this relatable anthem. Shoutout to all the normal girls out there currently digging ctrl.
“Pretty Little Birds” is the one song that I haven’t completely gotten into yet. My friends that have listened to this beautiful track (who happen to be girls) are in love with it and I think this slower number probably resonates more with the ladies and I’m not mad at it.
20 Something… “20 Something” is LIFE. I relate to so many elements of this song at my current stage of life at 23 and I can’t wait to hear this live (BECAUSE YOU KNOW I WILL BE AT ONE OF THOSE CTRL SHOWS). “How could it be / 20 Something / All alone still / Not a thing in my name / Ain’t got nothin’ / Runnin’ from love / Only no fear…” Too real, SZA. Too real.
I can’t imagine how much work, stress, tears and joy came from creating this body of work within four years but it was definitely worth the wait. Even though SZA says that the experiences that influenced this album are in the past and this is more of a reflection of her time in the 20s, I know there are so many young adults currently in these growing years that can hopefully appreciate ctrl and everything it represents. As we continue to grow and evolve, there will always be struggles through each stage and I love that artists like SZA can beautifully put those moments into her music and inspire others. But as SZA’s mom perfectly puts it, we’ll never stop fighting for that sense of control and the beauty of having and not having it will never get old.
“And if it’s an illusion, I don’t want to wake up. I’m gonna hang on to it. Because the alternative is an abyss, is just a hole, a darkness, a nothingness. Who wants that? You know? So that’s what I think about CTRL, and that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.”
Are you also obsessed with ctrl? Let me know in the comments!
Stream / Support ctrl below:
Apple Music: HERE