Ctrl-ing her future: SZA’s debut album holds true four years later

Arissa Mejia

Ctrl (pronounced ¨control¨) is SZA´s debut album released on June 9, 2017. The album was inspired by SZA´s view of control in her life and how she’s gaining power over it again after a long period of being in a toxic relationship.

 She covers the topics of relationships, jealousy, self-esteem, self love, healing, and mental clarity all through her personal experiences. 

The album has 14 songs, which I strongly encourage listeners to listen to in sequential  order. For me, listening to the album is like floating in a dream, it is genuinely heaven to my ears.

I first listened to the album in 2017 and it gave me an overwhelming feeling of euphoria. I literally got goosebumps when I listened to each song and I even cried listening to some of them. 

I still get the exact same feeling when I listen to the album (which is once a day, I’m not even exaggerating) and it’s four years later. No other album or song tops this album, it is truly one of a kind.

Ctrl starts off strong with her song “Supermodel” which is about her insecurities and how she gets back at her previous boyfriend who did her wrong. The song begins with a voice recording of her mom describing how her life would be a wreck if she didn’t have control over it then it flows into a relaxing melody of a guitar that is soothing but also sad in a way. 

Not only is the melody beautiful, but her lyrics are just as amazing. In one of the lyrics she says, “Why am I so easy to forget like that?” and it’s my favorite one because of how she’s being vulnerable and expressing how her ex’s treatment made her feel.

The second song on the album is “Love Galore” which features Travis Scott, and is a song where SZA touches on cravings for a past lover, rebirth after a regretful relationship, and putting herself first after a one sided love. 

My favorite lyric is, “Why do you bother me when you know you don’t want me?” because it’s frequently repeated in the song, and when you’re in a situation similar it is really relatable. The genre of the song is R&B and is on the more upbeat side which I love. 

The third song on the album is “Doves In The Wind” featuring Kendrick Lamar and is about how there’s so much more to a relationship than just sexual activities, which her past lover seemed to be fixated on. 

The tempo is upbeat and it makes listeners want to dance around without a care in the world (at least that’s the feeling it gives me).

 In the song she expresses her anger with how her ex would only want to engage in sexual activities and not actually spend quality time with her. She also sings about the measures he would take just to sleep with her. At the end of the song is another voice recording of her mom making a statement about how people shouldn’t stress about situations that are out of their hands and then it flows into the next song.

The fourth song on the album is “Drew Barrymore,” the name is inspired by the actress herself because most of the characters she has portrayed are the kind girl who is misunderstood but just wants to be loved. The lyrics are touching and you can feel her emotion just by listening to it. 

The fifth song is “Prom” which is an upbeat pop disco song about how SZA reflects on her insecurities on not maturing as quickly as her partner. Prom is the last big event before graduation and SZA relates that to her being too busy living in the moment that she forgets she has her future ahead of her. I love this song because she expresses the fears of growing up perfectly while putting it in a good song.

The sixth song is “The Weekend” which is a slow contemporary R&B and neo soul track about three women that are being played by the same man. SZA made this song to talk about how women shouldn’t put up with a guy and to see through the lies and manipulation. The song overall is slow and it’s perfect to chill and vibe to.

The seventh song is “Go Gina” which is an uplifting song about leaving people alone instead of judging them on how they are living their own lives. 

SZA, who acts as a character that indulges in a carefree lifestyle in the song, uses this song to contrast her personality with a girl named Gina, who seems to have her life put together, and who judges SZA for her lifestyle. 

However, at the end of the song, Gina finally frees herself of the stress and begins to live carefree as well, showing her development. 

The eighth song is “Garden,” which has a disco melody and is about SZA seeking emotional vulnerability and support in a relationship. 

At the beginning of the album, SZA seems more closed off and isn’t open to love; however this song perfectly shows how she becomes vulnerable to express her needs in a relationship. This is one of my favorite songs on the album because it shows her raw feelings about love.

The ninth song is “Broken Clocks,” which is a R&B and soul song, and you can definitely feel the soul when she sings. 

It’s overall theme is working hard and earning money after going through a bad break up. In this song she opens up about the mistakes she made in her previous relationship but realizes towards the end of the song that dwelling on the past gets you nowhere. 

The tenth song is “Anything” which is about her growing from her past relationship and finally being tired of the toxicity of it. 

In this song she expresses how she feels she has to put in so much effort to keep her lover happy, while he doesn’t even put in effort at all. For me, it’s a very powerful song that shows how she is putting herself first in a relationship.

The eleventh song is “Wavy” featuring James Fauntleroy, which is a 90s inspired R&B song, about SZA waving goodbye to this painful part of her life to focus on the positives of closing this chapter. This song shows the progress she’s made with healing compared to the start of the album.

The twelfth song is “Normal Girl”, one of my favorite songs on the entire album, is a song about insecurities and not being the “perfect girl” in a relationship. 

Towards the end of the song, she embraces her insecurities and accepts herself even with her flaws. It’s a soulful song that I’ve cried to a couple times and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

The thirteenth song is “Pretty Little Birds” featuring Isaiah Rashad, which is an uplifting song that’s dedicated to people who’ve been hurt before (which is almost everyone). SZA expresses the hardships that people deal with in order to become a pretty bird and also sings about wanting to be with her lover again, but she won’t be as trusting this time round. 

The album then ends with its fourteenth song “20 Something” which has a raw acoustic sound that is beautiful to listen to. The song is about reflecting on her 20s and how they’ve been the most exciting yet most disappointing moments in her life. “20 Something” is truly the perfect way to end the album as she’s saying goodbye to her past and looking forward to her future. 

Ctrl is simply a story of SZA overcoming a toxic situation and building herself up from it. She portrays the healing process beautifully through each song with use of strong lyrics, melody, and beats. 

If you are looking for a new sound, or just new music in general, I highly recommend this album. Sometimes older albums are the best to check out instead of the latest album.