SZA
Ctrl


3.5
great

Review

by owl beanie STAFF
June 17th, 2017 | 95 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: i feel like side-piece is an objectifying term and i reject its place in pop culture discourse. i also like the album

In my quest to breathe in as many different genres and musical styles as is humanly possible, I’ve become acutely aware of two things: Firstly, I have way too much time on my hands, and secondly, this is not necessarily a bad thing. If I didn’t wake up in the afternoon all the time and perpetually confuse weekdays with weekends, SZA’s Ctrl would’ve remained one of those records that maybe I would’ve checked out eventually.

But I checked it out yesterday, and it rewarded my whimsical decision making with a collection of colourful, well-realised RnB-pop songs. Ctrl is an album that oozes sexiness and struts with confidence, if only to spite the low-life dudes all over the world that refuse to take no for an answer. SZA, vitally, rides out this record on her own terms; asking the important questions until she gets the answers she deserves. In Drew Barrymore, she asks: “Is it warm enough for ya inside me"” before bending a series of apologies into passive-aggressive accusations like she’s found herself on the defensive. In a single hook, she confronts her own insecurities and accosts her subject’s imperfections; enacting catharsis over a warm, syrupy beat.

The main issue I may or may not have with Ctrl (depending on how empathetic I feel) is that the album reads like a convoluted, drawn-out open letter to the same people, who might be of romantic interest, but mainly just exist as concepts for Solana to channel her insecurities through. She is probably justified - songwriters are at their most sincere, their most relatable even, when their insecurities are evident and their experiences are honest. But by the same token, it sometimes feels like the whole record is detailing the same relationship dynamics, just through different moods: sad, angry, penitent, amorous, et cetera, et cetera. During any particular listen, there is an equal chance of this theme feeling either belabored or liberating. Take your pick.

For the most part, though, this thing has me conflicted in a good way; in a way that only works because of its emotional depth and scrupulous consideration of detail. Ctrl, at times, explores the emotional complexities of sex and competition and internal conflict from refreshing perspectives. Listen to Doves in the Wind – it’s confident and not without a sense of humour, and when SZA wishes for her own Forrest Gump because he “never even pushed for the pussy” it is both a funny and meaningful indictment of objectification and misogyny.

Yet, through all the snark and through all the embellished vocal performances (see: Anything), the album remains true to itself. The same chord progression bookends the record, glassy and confrontational at first (Supermodel), then pillowy and contemplative in reaction to the rest of the album (20 Something). It positions Ctrl as a kind of learning experience for Solana – a maturation that refuses to belie the quirks that made her interesting to begin with. There’s a very distinct personality here, deft with its melodies, vibrant in its presentation, and sensual in its demeanour.

So, let me get all middle-school-science-report for a minute:

In conclusion, Ctrl is a Facebook-photo album of opinions and behaviours that probably shouldn’t be broadcasted online. It’s also an assembly of tracks that prevail as mantras of self-affirmation, and it balances the two sides of its character with an awareness that feels like an accident, though it's welcomed all the same. But even if we disregard what it all means, these tracks are still jams, tunes, or any other blasé term people attach to music that you can throw away your dignity to. Ctrl is no place for such decorum.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2017


2879 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Beautifully tongue-in-cheek review, mate, audibly laughed a few times. Really interesting analysis, too. It's kinda impressive how honest she is on the album: her insecurities are so very immense, even over these, as you say, very syrupy, kinda chilled out and danceable beats. Like, she goes so far as to confess sleeping with one of her ex's friends. Doesn't really back away from anything, super apt title in that sense.

Digging: Injury Reserve - Injury Reserve

Ryus
June 17th 2017


17473 Comments


youre crankin em out man, props

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2017


2409 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah that shocked me when i first heard it, i just couldn't find a place to mention it in the review. thanks as usual, ya champion

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2017


2409 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thanks ryus!

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
June 17th 2017


24647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

hahah In Conclusion, is a phrase I always want to use for last paragraphs but never do and the way you did it probably is the best i've seen. solid review and i'm guessing if i listen to this i'll like it about the same as you

JWT155
June 17th 2017


14381 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

This isn't terrible, in fact it's good, but it's just a girl tackling/hijacking Frank Ocean's style.

literallyzach
June 17th 2017


507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

haven't gotten around to listening to this yet but my friends are really into it

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2017


2879 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm skeptical as to how much this album was actually inspired by Frank Ocean. If anything, it's most like Endless, I suppose; I think rather there's a strong hip-hop influence, and it gives me more shades of Jhene Aiko and Noname (minus the rapping, of course). I guess there's something similar in their melodies, though, right? Finding it hard to pinpoint anything. There is this half-sung, half-flow kinda thing going on, but Beyonce's sorta employed that on her last couple albums as well.

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2017


2409 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thanks con



i think it's probably only tangentially inspired by frank ocean because he's the biggest modern solely RnB artist going around right now

Ryus
June 17th 2017


17473 Comments


"This isn't terrible, in fact it's good, but it's just a girl tackling/hijacking Frank Ocean's style."

this really doesn't draw that much from frank ocean tbh

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2017


2409 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

second that

Calc
Contributing Reviewer
June 17th 2017


16128 Comments


commenting to remind myself to check this lata. glad to see it seems to be good

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2017


2409 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's a lotta fun even though the subject matter isn't

TheSpaceMan
June 19th 2017


11950 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is really good, though i much preferred the front half. will revisit fo sho

TheSpaceMan
June 19th 2017


11950 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this was also my 1000th rate

TheMrAlexK
June 19th 2017


10928 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really wanna check this but I'm sure I'll forget. Glad to see that this album is kinda taking off tho

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2017


2409 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

congrats spaceman, and yeah alex it deserved a review even if that review is decidedly average aha

TheSpaceMan
June 19th 2017


11950 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

alex make a point, i'm sure you'll dig



thanks land dude! your review got me to peep this so dont be so quick to slight it

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2017


2409 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

that's the goal man, thanks

tommygun
June 19th 2017


26869 Comments


great review superstar

if this actually sounds like frank ocean i'll pass tho, dude's music is like watchin paint dry



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