Explore insecurity and self-love with SZA’s album “Ctrl”

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Sage Adams

Sza released her critically-acclaimed debut album “Ctrl” in June 2017. The R&B record intimately explores the concept of control.

Audrey Matei, Reporter

TMany may know the artist known as SZA today because of her feature in the song “All the Stars”  in the film “Blank Panther” or her viral presence on the social networking app, TikTok. Before all this though, SZA emerged into the scene with her critically-acclaimed debut album “Ctrl” in June 2017 which through the past few years remains fresh and provides a glimpse into the future of R&B and the concept album.

In SZA’s R&B record “Ctrl” she crafts an extremely enjoyable and relatable listening experience, with an overarching theme of the perception of control and subthemes of growth, insecurity and self-love. She does all this while revamping the modern-day R&B album with her own unique cohesive style and themes that have inspired many. 

The opening lines of the album, recited by SZA’s mother, capture the tone and theme of the album very well. She says in the form of a voicemail “That is my greatest fear that if, if I lost control or did not have control, things would just, you know I would be… fatal.” The idea of self-control is maintained very well throughout the album by exploring different emotions and reactions that come with being independent while keeping the sound and message cohesive. 

SZA uses moody R&B/trap beats throughout the album, setting a relaxed and enjoyable tone despite the seriousness of some of the song’s subject matters. This is especially evident on track nine, “Broken Clocks.” She explores a failing relationship that throws off the tempo of her life while singing gracefully over a chorus of humming and a subtle trap beat. This oxymoronic combination creates a unique, bittersweet sensation that captivates the listener.

A highlight of this album is the opening track, “Supermodel,” where SZA exhibits how insecurity creeps into her mind after ending a relationship. The songwriting is fresh and creative as the song is written in the form of a letter to an ex-lover with painfully relatable lyrics like “It made me feel good for temporary love,” and “Why am I so easy to forget like that?” These ideas demonstrate a more vulnerable side to SZA in which she feels completely lost in her own feelings and out of control. 

SZA isn’t afraid to depart from such grave and serious emotions. In “Love Galore” and “Doves in the Wind” she sings about embracing sexuality and learning to put yourself first, showing some of the different facets of adulthood that still fall under the overarching theme of the album. 

Sprinkled into the album are voicemail messages from SZA’s mother, who offers words of advice to SZA as she navigates the different subjects of the album. These serve as a guiding hand for listeners throughout the album and improve the flow of the album in a clever way.

Although SZA didn’t invent the idea of a concept album, the idea of a connected and thematic album has increasingly grown more popular since the release and conception of “Ctrl.” SZA has collaborated with artists of the likes of Beyonce and Lorde, each of whom has praised SZA and also released modern concept albums “Lemonade” and “Melodrama.” 

“Ctrl” is a fresh and memorable R&B album that combines different themes and ideas to create a cohesive body of work that is an image of the future of songwriting and R&B.