SZA is that breath of fresh air we’ve all been waiting for.
See.SZA.Run (2012), S (2013) and Z (2014) were a soulful introduction to her authentic penmanship and auspicious vocals, but SZA (pronounced Sizz-ahh) was still discovering her identity – sonically and personally. Her debut album Ctrl skipped over salutations and dove straight to the depths of SZA’s deepest insecurities in a vocal diary. “Drew Barrymore,” the album’s first single dropped in mid-January is rich with emotion, unraveling SZA’s inhibitions and mental instabilities in a way that is nothing but honest and profound. The warm, inviting feel of live instruments and SZA’s raw voice force the question – why would anybody with a sound this strong hide behind layers of reverb?
The insightful ballad, “Supermodel” is easy to relate to as SZA opens up with a letter to an ex about her indiscretions. SZA effortlessly looped together narratives and genres, leading the listener on a beautiful journey contrasted with stark and brutal lyricism. The album’s second single, “Love Galore” assisted by Travis Scott is the perfect example of this. It tells the tale of an ex-lover becoming detrimental to your well being. No longer using abstract metaphors, its refreshing that SZA is so blunt with the listener, juxtaposing what something “should” sound like, with the realities of love. The sultry honesty carries over to “The Weekend,” a radio-ready track detailing the inner-workings of a relationship where she is the “side-chick.” *****Speaking of her songwriting, it would be a disservice not to give SZA credit where it is due for her pen. As if writing for Rihanna and Beyonce weren’t enough, Ctrl is the cherry on top. SZA’s talent lies in delivering concepts and lines in a way the listener has never heard them before.
The centerpiece of the album tandems with the closer, “20 Something.” With nothing but the light strums of a guitar and SZA’s voice, its as if she rips a page from her diary about the challenges of navigating her 20’s. Being this much of an open book leaves the listener even more curious of what she’ll do next.