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Special: Sza like we’ve never seen her before – confident and in CTRL

A week ago, TDE songstress SZA released her long-awaited (and severally delayed) debut album, CTRL.  In an Entertainment Weekly interview over a year ago, Sza spoke at length about her debut, then called A (the finale to her ‘S’ and ‘Z’ EP series). CTRL  is a confident self-assured album in which the singer lifts the lid on her life, digging to new depths. Foretold by the album cover featuring numerous television screens, we are, in her own words, “now watching her TV screen”. Filled with brutally honest confessional lyrics, the album gives an unflinching look into her psyche, showing her various insecurities and unfiltered thoughts.

Sounds like…

a little bit of Neo-Soul, Indie Rock, and trap-tinged contemporary R&B. CTRL is highly varied. It steps away from the decidedly airy, psychedelic PBR&B she’d become known for, opting instead for a different form of alternative R&B that owes more to rock music and the Neo-Soul sound of Badu or D’Angelo with contemporised production. Each track evokes different moods due to the diverse production and the range of her powerful voice that is showcased. Filled with many bold, idiosyncratic ideas, the CTRL finds Sza experimenting in new, unexpected ways. At the end of The Weekend, she literally proclaims in harmony and repeatedly chants “bright ideas, we got bright ideas”.

Throughout, the album epitomises exceptional production where each note and chord has clearly been arranged with incredible precision. And Sza’s honey-soaked, velvety voice is used to sterling effect; often layered and harmonised to perfection, adding to the lush production effect.

Speaks to…

the journey of confidence and self-exploration Sza has been on since her first EP. On CTRL, Sza’s songwriting pulls no punches, unapologetically proclaiming her flaws and insecurities. She practically opens the album on Supermodel with a confession to a cheating ex that she’s “been secretly banging” his friend. Later on, in the social media labelled ‘anthem to sidechicks’, The Weekend, she describes a relationship in which she played ‘the other woman’. She appears remorseless, but is simply being candid about the nature of such situations – the guy is trash and really ‘belongs’ to no one.

Sza has described songwriting as a cathartic, therapeutic experience and it’s clear she dug to new emotional depths on CTRL. On some of her EPs, her writing was almost obtuse at times as Sza hid her feelings behind layers of metaphors and innuendos.

Early faves…

Doves In The Wind

Supermodel

Drew Barrymore

Broken Clocks

Garden (Say It Like Dat)

Our verdict…

An excellent, deeply personal project, CTRL is a beautiful, often raw album which shows that the singer’s star shines bright. Whilst this album will keep fans satisfied for a while, it promises of an exciting catalogue ahead as it still seems a ‘hit’ as yet eludes the singer. A now-deleted tweet from the singer previously mentioned that she was quitting music; let’s hope that’s not the case as CTRL hints at even greater heights. Sza is in CTRL, but ironically she achieved it by letting loose.