Album Reviews Music

Musical Advent Calendar #14 SZA – Ctrl

It’s without doubt that this has been a considerably accomplished year for the up and coming New Jersey native SZA. To mention the most, 2017 has been the year of the release of her debut album Ctrl, which has thrived significantly within the current music scene. To add on to that, SZA has officially qualified as a platinum-selling artist for the highly acclaimed singles “Love Galore” and “The Weekend” – and now the riveting new singer can add yet another title to her name: a five category Grammy-nominated artist.

Nevertheless, none of these accomplishments are dubiously undeserved, especially considering the quality of SZA’s debut album. Ctrl is an impressively bold, genre-bending project, which leaps into the realm of momentary flings and messy relationships. In 50 minutes, we get a glimpse of SZA’s world and in ways grow familiar with the story-lines she explores as the album reflects the modern love enigma of the Instagram age. One thing to note after listening to Ctrl is SZA’s valiantly honest and outspoken “no fucks given” approach. For instance, in the opening song “Supermodel,” she utters,  “Let me tell you a secret. I been secretly banging your homeboy,” which is aimed directly at her ex-boyfriend, thus magnifying the raw and uncensored style that she masters so excellently. This style and form of lyrical audaciousness can be witnessed throughout the album and explicitly in tracks such as “Doves in the Wind” where SZA has no shame in expressing, “High key, your dick is weak, buddy. It’s only replaced by a rubber substitute.”

In contrast, SZA tends to extend the narratives of self-worth introspection as well. In “Broken Clocks,” “Normal Girl” and “20 Something” she analyzes her imperfections and insecurities as we gain insight to the inconsistencies in her life in terms of love, work and time dynamics. On the last verse of “Drew Barrymore,” SZA sings “I’m so ashamed of myself, think I need therapy” followed by lyrics demonstrating low self-esteem as she apologises for all her flaws.

As a whole, every track on the album is executed beautifully in its own distinctive way. “Love Galore” (in which Travis Scott’s vocal effects blend in perfectly) and “The Weekend” encapsulate the heart of modern R&B, and their meditative beats effectively produce feelings of balance and satisfying fortitude. Opposed to this, we have “Prom” – a high-tempo tune that gives an electro-pop type of vibe and “Drew Barrymore” carrying a hint of early 90s grunge, both of which proving that SZA experiments beyond the confines of typical R&B fashion. However, all of the songs intertwine with one another perfectly, and despite its risky genre-exploration, it uniquely captures exactly what Ctrl is about; managing the crux of relationships and millennial angst, and of course bouncing back from heartbreak and betrayal, alongside self-growth. The brief interludes comprising of SZA’s mother and grandmother giving her advice, leaves a greater space for thought surrounding the true meaning of having ‘ctrl’ and provides a deeper and more fulfilling experience for listeners. With this debut, SZA effortlessly elevates her new atmospheric sound and surely places her mark on the popular music spectrum.


Kristal Dela Cruz


SZA had a great year in 2017, see who else made our end of year playlist and give us a follow if you like what you see