The queen of Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) dropped one of the most inspirational and relatable albums of the summer. With songs ranging in discussions of self-love, miscommunications, and strained relationships gone sour, SZA provides all the Black Girl Magic and self appreciation women of color needed to acknowledge, now more than ever.
SZA has never held back from telling it like it is in her songs, yet in her debut album Ctrl, she manages to take an even more emboldened and raw approach to simultaneous romance and heartbreak. She starts off with the isolating “Supermodel,” where she questions her own self worth in relationship to her lover: “I don’t need you/Why I can’t stay alone just by myself?/Wish I was comfortable just with myself/But I need you, but I need you, but I need you.” For too long black women have been cultured into feeling inferior in terms of beauty, intellect and educational achievements. On the notion of relationships, women of color are rarely ever allotted a space or time to talk about their personal insecurities. But SZA shifts that oh-so-familiar ‘strong black woman’ narrative into tender moments of vulnerability. Note to self: beautiful black or brown girl, it’s okay to cry.
In a collaboration with TDE’s “Humble” king, Kendrick Lamar on “Doves in the Wind,” SZA dives into the politics of black women’s bodies as agents of power in establishing partnerships, as well as the consistent mistreatment that black women endure in unestablished relationships. That is to say, black women, (all women really), are more than the kitty kat in their pants and shouldn’t be emotionally manipulated into situatiationships — a complete wilderness of commotion and dolor.
Smash singles like “Love Galore,” and “The Weekend,” have made their rounds on the radio waves clearly calling out the fuckboys for their wrongdoings and ulterior motives. SZA has crafted and produced pieces that she knew her fans would not only love and relate to, but included references from movies/ TV shows like Forrest Gump and Martin to lighten the tones in her neo soul ballads. “Drew Barrymore” stands out as an ode to 90s nostalgia and misguided youth, with the music video casually having Drew Barrymore herself drop by to ‘Hey.’
On songs like “Normal Girl,” you’ll find snippets of SZA’s mother giving her daughter handy advice about earning and demanding respect from people in any kind of partnership. With Ctrl, SZA took a stream of consciousness approach to most of the songs featured. In writing, reworking and rephrasing certain melodies and lyrics to just about every song on the album, she presents a clear line of new age dogma for Millennials to venture into.
Ctrl, ends with “20 Somethings,” the reflective slow strung melody to make us all feel better about our current outlook on our own lives and valued friendships. So cheers to our 20 somethings, even if we’re “Stuck in them 20 somethings, stuck in them 20 somethings/Good luck on them 20 somethings, good luck on them 20 somethings/But God bless these 20 somethings.” Because through all the pain we cause one another, through all the misdirection, lack of clarity and overall yearning for love, these early years of youth and unexplored adventures are the years we can learn from the most. Ctrl is available on Google Play, Spotify and iTunes.