10 Thoughts About SZA’s Album, Ctrl » VSB

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10 Thoughts About SZA’s Album, Ctrl

Top Dawg Entertainment


Have you heard of SZA? I feel like most people fall into one of two camps: 1) you’re very familiar with her and have developed opinions on all of her previous efforts like S and Z, which you like, natch; or 2) you have no idea who that is, what that is, and are trying to figure out if I just cursed you out in whatever language they speak in Kazakhstan.

I did not. SZA is the stage name of Solana Rowe, an artist signed to LA’s TDE imprint (the imprint of Kendrick Lamar) who recently released her full length debut studio album, Ctrl, on last Friday after a string of EPs. The name SZA follows in the tradition of the Rza and Gza, names built upon the Supreme Alphabet teachings of the Five Percent Nation. It’s possible that everything I’m saying right now sounds like poppycock. That’s okay because it isn’t important. Just know her name is pronounced like Sizza and that you should check out her album. I did and it’s been on repeat ever since.

That’s what I like.

Anyway, here are some thoughts about SZA’s album from somebody who hasn’t followed her career (though I do know she was on Rihanna’s ANTI album) BUT has enjoyed and devoured this album with delightful frequency.

1. While I really enjoy this album musically, sonically, lyrically, vocally, etc. I have to acknowledge that I’m about AT LEAST 15 years too old for this album. It’s definitely an album for a much younger demographic. I swear fore God and three white men there’s a mention of 7th grade (UPDATE: I’ve been put on notice that this is a reference to cartoon Pepper Ann, some other shit I don’t know about) on this album. I just can’t stress enough how this album was not made with me in mind. This isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy it once you’ve hit the dark ages of your life, I’m just saying that it’s entirely possible she’ll mention shit you haven’t thought about for decades.

2. That mention of 7th grade happens on my favorite record on the entire project, “Go Gina”. I cannot stress enough how much I love this damn song. The beat knocks, her singing knocks. I don’t feel like I’m out of line by saying it knocks me off my feet. Also, this will probably NOT be your favorite record on the album. So don’t be like, “well P, I listened and wasn’t whelmed one way or the other.” Listen, go live your best life, fam. Listen with the wind.

3. My first thoughts of this album are that she is representing the chick who Bryson Tiller sings about in all of his whiny ass songs except she doesn’t even want him anymore anyway AND fucked his best friend. Let me just say this here, I’ve really tried to get on the Bryson Tiller train; I have. But I don’t get it. This nigga whines more than Keith Sweat begs. And if it’s not whining it sure as shit SOUNDS like whining. His voice is grating and it doesn’t help that he’s one of those insufferable fuckboi diva dudes in his thematic presentation.

4.Can we talk for a moment about vocal arrangement. Full disclosure, there are entire albums that I love that I can’t recite a single lyric to because the melding of voices with instruments SOUNDS so beautiful that I never get around to dissecting the lyrics. My first foray into any song is how the artist sounds on it, as if their voices were additional instruments. I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy so the music has to get me first, then vibe, then somewhere down the line, lyrics. But the music involves the singing as well, for me. It’s also probably why I love D’Angelo so much. Nobody has understood him since 1995, yet and still his music is compelling and powerful. It might also by why I don’t hate Young Thug as much as I should. His voice is used to full effect. Michael Jackson was good for that too. I say all this because SZA’s vocals are amazing and even right now I haven’t listened to lots of the songs for their actual lyrics. This could also be why I love gospel so much; the voices are so strong and powerful that you don’t even have to worry about the lyrics because you know they’re singing about Jesus ‘nem and I’m pretty sure my mama approves of this message.

5. My favorite records on this album are: (the aforementioned) “Go Gina,” “Drew Barrymore,” “Super Model,” “Broken Clocks,” “Prom,” “The Weekend,” “Anything,” and “Wavy.” And I have no idea if I employed proper comma usage there.

6. My least favorite records are all the ones with features to include “Love Galore” featuring Travis Scott, “Doves in the Wind” with Kendrick Lamar, and “Pretty Little Birds” with Isiah Rashad.

7. Building on 6, I don’t think Kendrick adds ONE bit to that record aside from saying the word p*ssy so many times, which isn’t really an addition so much as its just funny until it’s like, boy stahp. I’m sure folks will laud the verse; I’m not folks. I’d rather he didn’t.

8. I’m not up on the new R&B (or hip-hop for that matter, though I did know more people on that new XXL Freshman cover than I expected), but I can say that from what I have heard of other artists, I haven’t heard much that sounds like this album, and that’s a good thing. It’s definitely heavier on substance than a lot of the non-sensical R&B that’s out there. I”m going to stop short of calling it that ambitious, but it’s a hell of an album that I think will catch a whole lot of replay action on your favorite streaming service. Like you know how nobody is really out here listening to Jhene Aiko albums though people keep trying to make you believe she’s a thing? Yeah, this is the opposite.

9. I’ve watched some of her promo runs on various NY outlets (like The Breakfast Club and Everyday Struggle on Complex, for example), and she seems very personable and funny and approachable. I like that from artists. Artists who come across as real people definitely make me want to give their products more of a shot. This is how I ended up listening to 21 Savage and realizing that while he’s good at interviews I legit hate his music.

10. Just call me Pza from here on out. But don’t pronounce it like “pizza”, but like “pihza”. (It’s okay if you don’t by the way, but I need a 10th point and you can save 15 percent or more by switching to Geico so is everybody is really winning here. You’re welcome.)

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • NomadaNare

    11. Its a good album SZA continues to impress
    Shoulda scooped her up when I had the chance

    • AKA The Sauce


      • All of them.

      • NomadaNare

        When she was still only on soundcloud I went to a show of hers at some sort of fest thing at a collection of clubs in NYC that December

        Anyway she played in one club with an embarrassingly small audience and after that I went and saw Earl Sweatshirt and eventually made my way over to see Black Hippy before Kendrick was super big

        She was sitting on the floor by herself watching the show because no one knew who she was and I had just come back from the bar with some drinks when we caught eyes and she smiled

        Im tall so I thought it might have been because she recognized me from her show

        I didnt make the move as the second drink in my hand was for my then girlfriend but I wonder what if everytime I listen to her music especially because the GF was gone by the following December

        I think she met TDE at that show because next thing I know shes signed and dropped Teen Spirit like that summer

        She kinda was always fine and the long hair was always a thing from the beginning

        Shes really only looks better in person and has only gotten prettier with age

        • I just love her aesthetic.She’s like “beautiful girl next door” attractive vs. “IG baddie” attractive. Freckles and big hair on a black woman just >>>.

          Her look in that “Love Galore” video was next level.

          Meanwhile, this sounds like the beginning of a good romantic comedy plot. Excuse me while I copy and paste it into a Word doc. ;)

          • NomadaNare

            I didnt like her look in the video or the song

            The normcore thing really works for her as well as the doing her own sound

            • I hated the song. I’m still not sure I understand it.

              But the video reminded me of Stephen King’s “Misery,” so I got a bit of a kick out of it.

              Not even in the scene w/just her and the butterflies? I thought she looked gorgeous. It was such a departure from her normal style. So I was just like “look at Solana feeling herself!”

            • MsCee

              I LOVED the look in that video…I was like dayum SZA got a$$. Lol

              • PhlyyPhree

                She been had that. I saw a clip of her doing some tumbling a few years ago and the most noticeable things for me were those thighs and dat az z. I’m glad she didn’t lose those in her recent slim down.

              • NomadaNare

                Its too polished for me

                I always thought part of SZAs charm was in her being so low key

          • MsSula

            She reminds me of Erykah Badu in some of her shots (that I just googled because I had no idea who that young lady was before this post)

    • …waiting… with bated breath.

      b/c she is such a baddie to me.

      • NomadaNare

        LOL details downthread

  • Dionna Simone King

    I was waiting for this and you came through. I can’t get enough of listening to, talking and reading about this album. SZA provided a soundtrack for me to be trifling to, whilst I get my heartbroken multiple times this summer. I am grateful.

  • HouseOfBonnets


    *ok back to the article* https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b110feece6f4a0d2a5c4a289795d207ecec08489ca8fb328dce2f76c4c7bc8ae.gif

  • HouseOfBonnets

    She said:

    “I’ve had a thing for dirty shoes since I was 10 love dirty men alike……”

    Me: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d525f2902c62c6cfad2f9ded8edb3f35225855599a063a897d9e12db9ab3fb0f.gif

  • miss t-lee

    I haven’t listened to the album.
    I discovered her song “Sweet November” a few months back after it popped up as my spotify shuffled. I saved it. I don’t know if I wanna hear an entire album, maybe I’ll check it out.

    • panamajackson

      I think you might like it.

      • miss t-lee

        Alrighty. On that alone, I’ll take a listen soon.

    • PhlyyPhree

      I love Sweet November. IT’s one of my favorite songs from her. Unfortunately….whilst I like her voice, I found a lot of her other songs didn’t hit me the same way. I like the lyrics on that song and everything else….wasn’t that.

      • miss t-lee

        Gotcha. “Sweet November” is literally the only song I know by chick…lol

  • Lyrical this album is too millennial black twitter for me. The production is stellar though. I don’t ever want to hear Kendrick rap sensually. It is awful

    • I only listened to Love Galore, or whatever it is called. But I might have the same issue. Is she from Harlem? When I saw her on the Breakfast Club for 5 minutes…she reminded me of cool people I was never cool enough for. I guess I’m still holding on to that :(

      Maybe I will try another song.

      • This definitely does sound like #CoolKids rnb though. Seriously

        • I wanted her to be a younger Santigold. I don’t know if that’s what this is. From now the 1.52 songs i’ve heard…I am getting #CoolKid production vibes. Cool.

          • She’s nowhere near as interesting or progressive as Santigold unfortunately.

            • That side chick song. I am no rocket scientist. But something told me…. she didn’t attend the boarding school Santigold went to.

            • I think I may understand why you feel that way, because I love SZA, but I find Santigold too avant-garde and esoteric.

              I wonder if that means I’m kinda basic?

              • Just different strokes

              • miss t-lee

                I love Santigold. I don’t know if I ever looked at her as avant-garde though.

                • I could’ve misjudged her. It’s been years since I’ve listened to her stuff. But I think it was the “LES Artistes” video/lyrics and the first album cover that kind of did it for me.

                  • miss t-lee

                    Hmmm. I don’t think I ever saw that vid. However, I loved that whole album. “You’ll Find A Way” is still my jam.

                    • I’ma check to see if it’s on Spotify and give it a go.

                    • miss t-lee

                      There’s two versions of the song, the remix is the one I dig.

              • MsSula

                Ok, with this description of yours I think I may enjoy SZA.

                She is the “light version” of Santigold and you need that type for lighter moments. She is definitely above trap levels but has that naughty vibe that doesn’t get you too bogged down and serious.

                Let me take a listen and report back.

              • Thomas

                no. you’d only be basic if you weren’t that self-aware.

            • NomadaNare

              Dont know if I can agree with this

              • Jhene Aiko makes the same exact music as SZA

                • NomadaNare

                  A statement this shallow is unlike you

                  • SZA definitely has better production behind her and she works her voice much more and better into the production. The lyrics are pretty much the same to me though. As well as her content. This aint Syd we’re talking about

                    • NomadaNare

                      I dont know bredren

                      I would give you content in the love department except for her clever lyrical wordplay explorations of depression millennial angst codeswitching dreams expectations tons of movie references etc

                      TBQH I dont find Syd that impressive but her sounds are very lush

                      Not sure of SZAs chops as shes never belted on a song but not a single person were talking about here is a *sanger*

                      Shes always had amazing production and she does much more with her voice

                      Jhene stays solely in her lane at all times and Santigold experiments alot but doesnt execute consistently like SZA does

                      IDK man youre not quite making an argument

                    • I wasn’t trying to make an elongated argument in regards to SZA or Jhene because they are both fine artists in their own right. Syd is a significantly better writer than SZA. She is far more introspective, better at not being cliche ridden, doesn’t invest so much songwriting into millennial neologisms, and sounds more earnest/sincere. I don’t find much exploration of anything. They sound like tweets I read on twitter everyday. Not that it is inherently a bad thing.

                    • PhlyyPhree

                      She actually has belted on ONE song. It was a throwaway called “Sober” and it is one of my favorite songs from her.
                      I say that to say She CAN do it and she definitely has the production to back her up….why she doesn’t do it on her albums?
                      I’ll never know.

                    • NomadaNare

                      I listened to Sobriety when its first came out and still jam to it now but I didnt hear heavy chops there although she did do more there than in previous songs

                      Have you heard the features shes done with Kingdom

                      She doesnt belt but his production works so well with the latest crop of consistent experimental R&B singers

                      Surprisingly her BEST music isnt on her albums which is crazy to me

                • TheOtherJerome

                  The hate is strong with this one. Love Jhene, but come on man…

                • SororSalsa

                  I feel like Jhene Aiko vacillates between Earth Mother and Wannabe Hoodrat Supreme.

                • PhlyyPhree

                  Exactly the same. Just in a higher register/octave range

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            That’s not what this is, but I get how it might be slid up into that niche.

      • She’s from Jersey.

      • Blueberry01

        She’s from suburban NJ.

        • MsSula

          You can be a mathematician and a #coolKid.

          I don’t know why #CoolKids are often painted as “mean”…

          • Blueberry01

            Because…80’s movies and 90’s TV shows?

            • MsSula

              Well, we do exist in real life. #CoolKidMathematician over here.

              • Blueberry01

                #BlacksNerdsUnite ?

    • cyanic

      His sensual raps are never on songs about the subject.

      • Lesliemdayton

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    • ValerieTheTenderoni

      The lyrics were trash

    • SororSalsa

      THANK YOU. I listened and wondered if I was missing something. And I loved Kehlani’s SSS and Syd’s Fin. My boyfriend sent me Doves in the Wind, and I really wondered what he was trying to say to me. But I love the production. I think this will be one that I will listen to and just sort of let the words float past me.

      • Kehlani is BAE!

      • MsCee

        I canNOT get into KEhlani…seems kinda fake deep IMO.

        • orchid921

          I like her song “Distraction” but I wonder what that says about me …

      • garrison m

        Every once in a while i will listen to Kehlani and SZA and realise they are really pushing to get a note that won’t come or singing straight out their nose. Then i just sing louder than them cuz i’m feelin the vibe and the lyrics.

  • PDL….HE still working on me

    Option 2 here…..never heard of her

  • KB

    I listened to a couple of songs on the album but need to go back and listen to/digest the entire thing. A part of me feels like this record is for the “black women who love brunch and are tired of dealing with f***boys” crowd (which I am totally ok with). This is not a knock on what I’ve heard on the album so far, but I definitely need to sit down and fully listen. That brings me to another point, I think these days it’s hard for me to really get into an album because the ability to stream my music and have access to millions of songs instantly (shouts out Spotify premium) has caused me to have musical A.D.D. where I don’t really pay attention to what I am listening to. Perhaps I need to go back to CDs where you put an album on and actually listened to it through due to the simple fact you didn’t feel like changing discs at the time.

    • miss t-lee

      I love my Spotify premium, best money I pay all month.
      I still listen to albums as a whole. Sometimes I find it best to listen to an entire project. However, after I’ve listened a few times, and if I deduce there’s a lot of filler, I’ll only save my faves, versus saving the entire project.

      • KB

        Spotify premium has led me to get rid of my other music streaming apps. Well I do have Amazon music but barely listen to it and somebody gifted me a free year of Tidal and I still barely use it *no shade Jay*

        • miss t-lee

          Oh, I never had any others. I did a 3 month trial for .99 cents, and then on that 4th month, pulled the trigger. I loves it so.

      • QRaven

        I haven’t looked back since upgrading to platinum.

        • miss t-lee

          I’ve gotten so many perks too. Free shows during SXSW, artists you love give you a chance to buy tixs presale for tours, I love it.

      • Cheech

        *still listening to my collection on my ipod classic. The 160G with a cord.*

        • miss t-lee

          Not mad at this.

    • Cheech

      Here’s an experiment. If your car is old enough to have a CD player, it probably has CD’s in it that you haven’t thought about in ten years. Next time you’re in the car for a bit, listen to them. And report back. You night surprise yourself.

      • QRaven

        I still have my leather case of CDs. I’ll go insane if my cars don’t have cd players.

  • BrothasKeeper

    *sigh* I’m so old. Lemme wear out Kendrick one more time, and then I’ll make room in my repertoire.

    • cyanic

      Artists born in the 90s make me feel super old. You Steve Lacy you Pink Lips and a Smirk (that rapper from Long Beach).

    • cyanic

      Vince Staples — finally remembered his name after giving a description down below.

  • Darkchloe144

    Drew Barrymore and Babylon from Z album been in rotation for awhile now, so I guess I better give this one a whirl.

    • TheOtherJerome

      That drop on Babylon though…. Every time I’m playing it in the whip and i have new ladyfriend company, the’re like “who is this?” And i’ll have the bass turned up a bit too. So that drop hits em lol

    • MsSula

      I just realized I had heard it on my Deezer (kinda like Spotify for those of us not able to get Spotify). And I actually like her voice and music production.

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