IN CONTROL WITH SZA
“YOU BLACK HEIFER YOU you stand your ground, you don’t have to talk about me and treat me mean, I don’t have to talk about you and be mean. That’s how we work that one”
SZA's Grandma on "Garden"
Soulful and unhurried, CTRL, the debut album from Jersey girl SZA is an immersive dreamscape, book-ended poignantly with her mother and grandmother’s musings on the subject of control. The meandering rhythm & blues of frank ocean, bryson tiller and the likes are the obvious touchstone . Throughout the record SZA delivers decadent slow jams with delicately communicated abstractions of youth, self esteem and intimate insights into femininity - coarse topics smoothed over with powerful and melodic vocals. The presence of big names like Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar is exciting, even more thrilling is how well SZA holds her own on the features with shining, well, control.
“Ctrl,” SZA’s first album for a major label, holds on to the electronics and the leisurely tempos of her past work. But now she fully commands the foreground of her songs. Her voice is upfront, recorded to sound natural and unaffected, with all its grain and conversational quirks. And the album begins and ends with songs that back her with a guitar and little else, a signal of unadorned openness. A sort of openness that earns her heavy comparisons with feminine deities like Erykah Badu and India Irie. SZA’s deep exploration of honesty, love, relationships, self-esteem, femininity and blackness lifts her a few flights up the ladder to compete for playlist space agaisnt favorites like Jhene Aiko and Kehlani. ‘Ctrl’ ensures a career that favors a movement - a fraternity of ‘hurt people’ trying to be better together.
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