Do I even want a woman like SZA? Yeah, most definitely…probably…I think
Alright, I have two reviews to do today so they both might be short but I wrote a lot of notes about this album so…we’ll see.
SZA (I think it’s pronounced sizza) is a 26 year old singer signed to TDE, the label that hold such well-known heavyweights as Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad. She’s released a few EPs but Ctrl is her first full length album. My introduction to her was a couple years ago with the song “Babylon” ft Kendrick. It bangs. A hazy, airy instrumental with layered vocals and a sick rhythmic verse Kung Fu Kenny made me an instant fan. I don’t think the song would fit on SZA’s current project and if I took “Babylon” as an indicator of the future then I would have been wrong.
Ctrl is solid. SZA is a strong modern woman who knows exactly what she wants while at the same time aware of her insecurities and vulnerabilities. Her willingness to bluntly talk about sex is refreshing and sexy in its own right. The first several tracks are about a girl centered on her physical needs along with the power she knows she has. This is most obvious on one of the project’s highlights, “Doves In the Wind.” Basically, pussy is the strongest thing in the world, we are powerless against it and do THE MOST trying to get it. “The Weekend” is fucked up haha. I like it but the situation is morally questionable. Basically, there’s this guy that she only gets to bang on the weekends because during the week, he’s with his other girl that she knows he has. That’s a life I’ve never experienced but props to that dude I guess.
The last half of the album is less sex-focused tracks but more focused on love from different angles. Exes, personal struggles and desires. On “Garden” she mentions how she’s sensitive about having no booty and hoping how she hopes her man stays despite this. She hopes she is a normal enough to meet her man’s parents on “Normal Girl.” Also the thoughts of still being in love with guys of the past and present run through multiple songs. IThey’re not ground breaking topics and that is totally fine. I do appreciate how there is NONE, ZERO, NO politics on Ctrl. Not everything that comes out in this modern era has to have a political or race-related issue. Tell me your story. Also, as a wide release debut it could have placed SZA in a box of expectations that could pigeonhole her. Gain new fans with your own music, then make a statement when your fan base is established.
Sonically, this album is very consistent. Everything is pretty much the same energy level but SZA’s attitude, lyrics and vocals keep things interesting. I would say it’s very wavy and vibey; you can sway to it. Some of it is trap influenced and electronic while other songs have live drums and other live instrumentation including the final track, “20 Something” with just guitar. My least favorite song is “Anything” due to it’s choppy programmed drum track, arpeggiated synths and the constant repetition of “Do Do”; it just seems a bit lazy and bare. I like how the production for “Normal Girl” fits the words. There is something wishful and slightly whimsical about the synths that just totally fit. All the features work especially Kendrick’s and despite some questionable shit (which at this point, we should just expect) from Travis Scott, both songs are really great.
SZA presented us with very good debut album. Good production and interesting lyrics should hopefully make some new fans especially young women. I can see loads of women in their 20’s crying, dancing or fucking to it which is probably the point. Throughout the album you here what I assume is mom, talking about control and it really is the underlying theme of the project. SZA knows she can control men with her body but is also aware of the things she cannot. You can want a man to love you after he’s fucked your brains out but you can’t force that to happen. You can deny bums entrance into your Garden but you can’t stop the one you like from cheating on you.
Shout out to the 49 minute run time because even though it was fourteen songs, if it was any longer I could have seen myself losing interest. In the future, I think I would want more variety and experimentation so she doesn’t end up like Bryson Tiller.
This album makes me fearfully attracted to SZA which is good…I think.