Solána Imani Rowe, better known as SZA, released her debut studio album “Ctrl” June 9. In this album, SZA seamlessly speaks to the difficulty of being a young woman in her 20s. While she highlights heavy topics like insecurity, self-esteem and romantic and sexual relationships, the album doesn’t feel heavy. Catchy and fun lyrics are paired with a fresh twist on soul and R&B to keep the mood soft.
The 14-track album is connected by pieces of a conversation between SZA and her mother about the power of control. The album begins with “Supermodel,” a slow introduction during which SZA reminisces on an old relationship riddled with insecurity and the need to feel validated by a man. “Supermodel” captures an essence of vulnerability, and it carries all the way through the album.
The second song “Love Galore” has a different feel. SZA described it as a “relaxed tropical bop” in an interview with website Rap Genius. It’s the kind of song you blare through your car radio with all the windows down. In contrast to “Supermodel,” “Love Galore” exudes confidence and flirtation, which takes us right into the third track, “Doves in the Wind.” While the song may seem overly explicit about female sexuality to some, it confronts the idea that men hold the power in sexual relationships. Rapper Kendrick Lamar is featured on the track and brings some fresh energy to this catchy song.
At almost the halfway point, SZA gives us “The Weekend,” with a slow and classic R&B melody. This song was a staple for me and my housemates all summer long. The lyrics have a duality as SZA breaks down the complexity of competing with other women to be in a relationship. By this point in the album, it is clear that she will continue to work with themes that young people who are dating can relate to, especially young women.
“The Weekend” is followed by my personal favorite, “Go Gina.” “Go Gina” is a cultural reference to an old show from the 90s called “Martin,” referencing Martin’s girlfriend, Gina. The song has a cool beat and speaks about the stress that can come from pursuing relationships and trusting friendships. “Go Gina” also recognizes the difficulties of being a young, hardworking woman trying to date and trust people, while also meeting the standards of today’s society.
As the album winds down, the songs seem to get softer and sweeter. “Normal Girl” continues looking at insecurity. SZA sings of wanting to be the type of girl that her dad would be proud of or that a boyfriend would take home to his mother. She once again highlights the pressure that society places on women, with a smooth melody underneath.
“Ctrl” is easily a favorite of the summer. As a woman, listening to the album feels like you are getting advice about relationships, body image and self-esteem from someone who is going through it all. It’s a masterpiece to be talked about for years to come.