SZA is a neo-soul singer signed onto Top Dawg records. After appearing on Rihanna’s 2016 “Anti” record, SZA releases her own fresh of breathe air for the R&B genre- “Ctrl”
Ctrl begins with a sub-ambient instrumental as SZA immediately flaunts a talented and beautiful singing voice. These minimalist modern trap instrumentals continue throughout the record, and depend on SZA’s singing voice to gain the attention. These lo-fi beats are more significant in the song “Doves in the wind” ft. Top Dawgs own Kendrick Lamar.
Lyrics are often hit or miss on this record. Whilst “Doves in the wind” boasts Hip hops most talked about rapper, it lyrically falls short, as the unnecessarily over-sexualisation of some metaphors struggle to connect. “Ctrl” often falls in-between these typical R&B sexual themes but rarely fails to back them up with some well-composed instrumentals.
However, on the song “Drew Barrymore” SZA opens up to more self- confidence issues and attempts to comment on the expectations of modern women as she sites problems such as not shaving her legs or being ladylike enough for her man. Throughout the record SZA opens up more about these issues, and, rather than boasting about her overcoming’s, genuinely feels empowering.
This record is surprisingly intimate, even featuring samples of a telephone conversation between SZA and her mother, talking about the values of control. These samples only sustain the records concepts and themes into a deeper value of meaning.
SZA’s human side shows on this record, introducing the idea that “Ctrl” will not be just another cliché trap influenced, R&B album. Similarly to Solange’s 2016 album “A seat at the table”, SZA’s “Ctrl” is attempting to push the expectations of her genre.