SZA’s most recent project “Ctrl” is a lengthy album that dives into a contemplation of control. SZA seems to be asking: what is control?
Can we really control anything? The first song on the album: “Supermodel,” which is directed at an ex-boyfriend, begins with a voice-over. The voice allows SZA to voice her own fears of the nature of control before the song begins. The strength of the song lies in the contrast between the slow acoustic strumming and SZA’s ferocious style of singing in this particular track. When the drums finally kick in, they bring more power and excitement. “Supermodel,” speaks on SZA being fed up with her boyfriend, though at the same time admitting that she needs him. The internal conflict that SZA is experiencing is made clear not only through the lyrics, but the contrast in rhythm between the vocals and the beat as well.
The next song on the album is “Love Galore” which features Travis Scott. My personal favorite, “Love Galore” is a cleanly produced masterpiece filled with bass and snare drums. On the song SZA recalls a mistake she made in the past of constantly allowing men into her life. She simply wants to be alone for a while, and yet, the range used while singing the word “love” characterizes a more complicated feeling towards the powerful emotion.
“Doves in The Wind,” the next track, features a very intuitive Kendrick Lamar on the subject of female genitalia. On an album called Ctrl, it is interesting how SZA and Lamar speak about the power of the vagina. On the whole, Lamar and SZA seem to agree on the fact that men don’t deserve sex from women.
Other notable tracks on the album are “The Weekend,” and “Pretty Little Birds,” which features Isaiah Rashad, a rapper SZA has worked with frequently. “The Weekend” is a ballad-style track that employs the use of imitation as well as keyboard and snare sounds. Again, SZA talks about her relationship with a man, and addresses the man’s real girlfriend. She seems to be saying to the other woman that she can have him for all of the boring gooey relationship stuff, but SZA wants him for the fun part. “Pretty Little Birds” is a hard-hitting track that looks into the act of flying. Flying is used in this song as a metaphor for freedom, freedom being either a total lack of control or complete autonomy.
Holistically, the album provides insight into the nature of control itself, and asks existentialist questions about control as well. Ctrl is similar to SZA’s previous project Z in terms of production and style, though it differs completely with regard to theme. SZA has proved herself as an intense and contemplative artist, and I cannot wait to see where her mind will take her music next.