Go Gina is sounds like Erykah Badu is smiling ear to ear somewhere. The beat is definitely Mama’s Gun era neo-soul. SZA coos about walking her own path through life, not being able to trust everyone, messing up in school, finding her way in life, and at the same time growing into who she wants to be and not anyone else.
Garden (Say It Like Dat) is happy SZA. She is deeply in love but at the same time feels worried that her lover won’t love her if he knew the real her. But, when he tells her so, she believes him. She likes the feeling of having him balance her out. The song is positive and spacey with a solid heartbeat.
Broken Clocks is talking about how relationships can block personal progress. She still loves him but has no time to just focus on him. Anything is SZA debating her participation in a fling but feeling devalued. Anything shows her ability to make a catchy song with layers while continuing her unique singing style in diverse pockets.
Wavy (Interlude) ft James Fauntleroy is a super bouncy beat with SZA sing-rapping about overcoming her negative traits. James Fauntleroy is always a welcome feature and really added additional warmth to the track.
Normal Girl is another contemplative track about how she knows what guys like and how to get what she wants from them sexually, but is struggling to get that in a relationship. She desires the “take home to Mama” treatment but it seems to always miss her. She questions her aggressiveness and all of her quirks, but at the end of the song she’s that she is a normal girl. Her feelings and emotions are validated by her existence. Nothing is wrong with her. I love the breakdown at the end with the guitar.
Pretty Little Birds ft Isaiah Rashad is SZA talking about her desire to love after surviving her personal troubles in life. She talks about her wanting to treat someone special and desiring the chance to be seen for her success, not . SZA absolutely levitates over the powerful drums and warm horns. Isaiah comes in with a worn and distorted verse that matches the meaning behind the track. The track ends up being a reflection of how beautiful survival can be.
20 Something is a longing track reflecting her Supermodel intro track. She opens up about still not having her life together yet and hoping she gets it together eventually. She prays to survive and still have people close to her. It’s a powerful song that talks about vulnerability in a way albums don’t touch on much anymore. She ends the song with her mother saying the illusion of CTRL is better than nothing at all.
SZA’s strengths are evident on CTRL. Her writing, beat selection, vocal versatility, creativity, and ability to connect to her audience shows that she has an immensely bright future in music ahead of her. Conceptually, she’s leagues ahead of her counterparts and has the blessing of being able to sound natural over any soundscape. Combined with her authentic aesthetic and amazing vocal talent, she has plenty of space to evolve over time. CTRL isn’t just a title but it symbolizes her new position as heir to the genre.
SZA blew me away with this album (if you couldn’t already tell be the length of my review) BUT what is most important is the journey she took us on. She talked about her mistakes and her struggle with understanding how to grasp some control in her life. She details her relationships with men, women, and how it affected her view of herself. She meditates on the push and pull of sexual liberation versus the desire for something more substantial in her life. Her mother summarizes the album well with the idea that you cannot control your personal journey but believing you have no control at all leads to a dreary life.
SZA paints a great example of the complex nature of womanhood. The confusion, frustration, anger, love, happiness, and overall chaos of growing up and the quest of finding solace in yourself. CTRL reflected the beauty behind being flawed, love behind the pain, vulnerability behind strength, and most importantly, CTRL in accepting you don’t have control at all.
Turn Your Music Up!
Bonus: On her press run, SZA visited everyday struggle. I definitely enjoyed it and it gave great insight to her personality.
P.S. SZA has added herself to my celebrity Bae list.
SZA – Everyday Struggle