“That is my greatest fear: that if I lost control, or did not have control, things would just — you know, I — would be fatal.” SZA’s mother opens her new album CTRL with those pained, raw words. SZA – born Solána Imani Rowe – doesn’t hold back on her sophomore LP. The music reflects a young woman coming into her own, relishing the power of her own intelligence and sexuality. In a recent interview with Complex, SZA was up front about her current goals: “Growing up as a woman, making tough decisions, and sticking by my own shit is necessary.”
As the only woman currently signed to Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment, SZA stands out as a unique voice in an often male-dominated space. Her maturity is apparent, especially on songs that feature her male counterpoints. “Doves in the Wind” features Kendrick Lamar, whose gravely, distinct voice compliments her whispered, laughing lyrics: “You could never trivialize pu**y / But a bum ni**a like you would try it, pu**y / I know what you really bout / High key, your d**k is weak, buddy / It’s only replaced by a rubber substitute.”
Shots are fired throughout the album. In “Drew Barrymore” SZA breaks down her own insecurities, while also calling out her beau’s unrealistic standards: “We get so lonely, we pretend that this works / I’m so ashamed of myself think I need therapy-y-y-y / I’m sorry I’m not more attractive / I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike / I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night / I’m sorry I’m not your baby mama.” The mood throughout the album is one of confession and self-imposed reproach. Admirably, SZA is able to reflect on her own weaknesses, without lowering her standards or dismissing her partner’s faults (true signs of adulthood).
Considering her strict Orthodox Muslim upbringing, movie references on the album are frequent and refreshingly funny (you can find a full movie breakdown from Genius HERE). SZA tips her hat to Forrest Gump in “Doves in the Wind”: “Y’know, Jenny almost gave it all up for him / Never even pushed for the pussy / Where’s Forrest now when you need him? She even references the classic Wizard of Oz in the single “Prom,” singing “Hoppin’ through poppy fields / Dodgin’ evil witches / These houses keep droppin’ everywhere.” The callouts lend the album a sense of time and setting; SZA is in her late 20s, already reminiscing about high school and growing up in the ’90s.
“CTRL is about loss and the realization that nobody has control. I don’t have control, you don’t, Trump doesn’t have control—it doesn’t work that way. Everything is a free, spinning, and connected piece of world.” SZA left her diary open and from it’s pages she wrote an album expressing pain, anger, sensuality, and power. The themes are as familiar as weekends spent binge-watching VHS rentals. They speak to women who are more complicated than the diaries they keep.
Stand Out Tracks: Doves in the Wind, Drew Barrymore, Supermodel
Release Date: June 2017