Not long ago SZA was just the dreamy alternative sole female artist apart of the mainly male comprised record label T.D.E, creating intriguingly metaphorical and ethereal music discussing euphoria, nostalgia, and intimacy. At the time, not many people recognized the talented artistry she delivered just because her sound was too complex for the majority to consume. However, she’s managed to flourish into the light, radiating her work across the top charts, attracting new patrons with her highly anticipated and long overdue debut album, CTRL.
CTRL doesn’t necessarily display a “new” SZA, but instead accentuates a raw and straight forward angle of her music. She isn’t sugarcoating issues by utilizing figurative language and sonically produced beats. She’s allowing confessionals and forbidden thoughts to resonate creating crude and direct work.
The album opens with “Supermodel”, which automatically sets the overall tone of CTRL by demonstrating SZA’s conversationally structured lyrics and stripped down productions, aside from her previously well embellished work. A verse line such as “Let me tell you a secret/I been secretly banging your homeboy”, obviously speaks for itself. The song is confessing her affair with her boyfriend’s best friend while he was away. (What a gallant way to break the news).
With “Love Galore”, SZA succeeded in making a catchy song addressing awfully too familiar scenarios depicted in the pre-chorus. “Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me/Why you bother me when you know you got a woman?”, are questions meant to prove a point. SZA wants to know why this person is all over her knowing that the relationship will never progress. Basically, why are you wasting her time?
“Drew Barrymore” covers SZA’s insecurities, questioning if she’s warm enough for her lover. In many, if not all, relationships there are times when someone feels that they are not good enough for the other, so SZA accomplishes wholly relating to listeners in the situation of analyzing self-worth. Why Drew Barrymore? Trace back to films the actress has starred in and you’ll discover that most story plots were not so favorable in the aspect of romance for her characters.
Then there’s the notable and publicly deemed “sideline anthem”, “The Weekend”, which oozes scandal verse by verse. The sultry and seductive atmosphere of this song properly fits what SZA wants us to understand while listening to the song. “My man is my man is your man/ Heard it’s her man too” taunts the illusion of this woman actually believing that her man is honestly just with a solitary partner. She’s voluntarily admitting to keeping another woman’s man satisfied during the weekend, which is straight up savage. While the song screams trouble, it shines light on the liberalism that women can also have in terms of relationships.
“Broken Clocks” narrates battling the disproportion of things such as relationships, work, and the everyday aspects of life. Throughout the song she’s steadily mentioning work and cash, highlighting her hustle flow. By the end of the song it’s realized that she’s consumed in work and doesn’t really have time for love. Sad, but completely understandable.
“Normal Girl” is a ballad about SZA not corresponding with the title of the song. She wonders why she’s so outlandish in her relationship rather than being the ideal girlfriend. Questioning her mannerisms, she’s well aware of her energetic sexuality and settles with herself stating that she’ll never be, well, “normal”.
“Pretty Little Birds” displays vulnerability, essentially allowing herself to open up. “I wanna take all of my hair down and let you lay in it/ Spread all of my limbs out and let you lay in it”. She’s extending an invitation to her significant other to engage intimately with her. In this day and age it’s difficult to trust people, in fear of our feelings not being reciprocated. However, SZA sings about how she’s willing to fly away with someone despite the faults in her past.
The album’s conclusion is bittersweet, with “20 Something“, a song that hits close to home for the millennials trying to figure things out. Although it underlines the struggles that the age range experiences, it sprinkles a sense of motivation as SZA mentions, “good luck on them 20 somethings…God bless these 20 somethings”. It’s a perfect way to end the album:subtly and subdued.
So why was SZA’s debut album a major hit and not her other artistically inclined projects? It’s simply because she delivered an effortlessly blunt and easily apprehended piece of work. SZA dauntlessly pinpointed every day situations that pertain to a spectrum of age groups. SZA explores different segments of romance from loving, lusting, cheating, sidelining, and just everything. Each song on the album speaks volumes. It’s simply SZA purging her dirty laundry, which is hard not to admire.