10 Thoughts About SZA’s Album, Ctrl » VSB

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10 Thoughts About SZA’s Album, Ctrl

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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.

  • cyanic

    Kendrick repeating the p word is hilarious. Wish his portion were a hidden bonus track on Damn.

  • NonyaB?

    Is this Sza chick related to Rza?

    -Camp #2 member; never heard of her until recently.

  • Hadassah

    Camp #2. I’ve heard of her, just refuse to acknowledge her. But I hope she is acknowledge accordingly by the youngins and gets Grammy’s, endorsements and everything in between.

  • @madlark:disqus I was thinking last night..how much I miss ya. We are definitely hanging out before this summer ends. Are you in NY? I hope so. I have a fun ‘Weekend’ *ha* in mind. Which basically just means ordering room service in a stupidly expensive hotel..with a lovely view. Hope your down.

    PS. I’m starting to like REALLY like Love Galore

    • Absolutely. sounds superb and marvelous

  • TheOtherJerome

    Didn’t realize she had a new album and was super stoked until you wrote this:
    “I have to acknowledge that I’m about AT LEAST 15 years too old for this album.”
    Dangit. The albums S and Z weren’t like that i don’t think. Im still going to get the album of course, but now ill be cautiously optimistic about its greatness. Not sure how i’d feel if her sound were less artistic and more late millennial pop. This is after all a woman that spliced an old and candid Eartha Kitt interview into a song intro (she compromises for no man!) Heck, Ta Nihesi Coates is the one who put me up on her. So to me she’s been more futuristic and timeless with her vibe. At least previously.

    Anyway, after the track “Babylon” with Kendrick Lamar on the “Z” album, i have complete faith in her ability to create musical masterpieces. Her credit is good here

    • L8Comer

      I love Babylon! Also this album isn’t millennial pop at all. She’s still her great self on it :)

  • QRaven

    I’ve been jamming to this album since the weekend. I hate that I like “The Weekend” because it’s a song about being a side chick. The album reminds of the Tumblr page I wish I had 5 years ago.

    • NomadaNare

      Its a song about being The Side Chick lol

      • QRaven

        Yea, that’s something I can’t get down with. But I like it.
        But, then again, most of SWV’s catalog is about being a side chick.

  • NonyaB?

    OT:Can somebody come get your lil cousin Jaden – he’s playing with grown people equipment again without having the talent for it.


    • PDL….HE still working on me

      It’s a no for me, dawg. LOL. Treat or treat? Yeah that’s what the twin size sheet and mask is all about.

      • NonyaB?

        This was definitely a case of just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

        • PDL….HE still working on me

          Most definitely

    • Alessandro De Medici
      • NonyaB?

        His must be some rarefied brand of coco because this flavour of subpar fuckery is tew much.

    • Darkchloe144

      Video’s dumb. He looks awful in and out of that costume.
      Song is trap dumb, which is right up my alley every now and again.

      • NonyaB?

        The outfit looks too cheap to be called “costume” and his “song” makes the kitschy ratch sh*t I occasionally listen to look like gold. The video is a reminder that you running around streets with a camera ? a movie.

    • cyanic

      Some will argue this is liberation unfiltered. But my bitter from an older generation self says BS. Why can we no longer call a thing a thing in a liberated society?

    • QRaven

      I thought he cut off his locs?

      Eh, I think the song will get some radio play

      • NonyaB?

        I guess this was filmed pre locs-as-man-purse night.

    • Looks like creepy roleplay.
      Them kids got too much loot.

      • cedriclathan

        …and way too much time. You can tell they produced a version optimized for social media (YouTube) and not just a studio version dumbed down. Audio quality was an “A”. The video itself is about a D-.

  • @panamajackson:disqus have you listened to Syd’s album Fin?

    • PhlyyPhree

      I HAVEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I like it. I like it a lot. Have you listened to Steve Lacy’s wayyyyyy too short EP?

    • Rewind4ThatBehind

      Sooooooooooooooooooooo good.

  • Ra

    I’ve been listening to Ctrl all day. Awesome music.

  • Mr. Mooggyy

    SZA is cool. Nice little vibe to it. Reminds me of the vibe I got while listening to H.E.R (shout out to Collin B for puttin me on)! I will have to take more time to dive into SZA’s music.

    • ValerieTheTenderoni

      I liked H.E.R first project but the second sounds just like the first one. No growth. They remind me of Bryson Tiller, catchy beats but no depth.

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