Sza’s ‘CTRL’ album: A Review

AFROPUNK Festival - Day 2
Photo: Billboard

Despite some release setbacks, Sza’s ‘CTRL’ album is finally here and we’re happy galore.

The album is very much a compilation of a palette of real and humbling songs showcasing what it is to be a woman today. Featuring amicable collaborations with some of the best in the biz, including the likes of Travis Scott, James Fauntleroy, Isaiah Rashad and TDE’s very own Kendrick Lamar.

So here are a couple of sentences summing up my reaction to each of the tracks.

‘Supermodel’

This is such perfect song to open the album with, as it instantly makes you sit down and realise this album is going to be about spilling a whole lot of real shit. Starting with a rather thought-provoking quote “that is my greatest fear, that if I lose control, things would be just you know, fatal”.

Something about the whole sound of this track is so laidback in contrast to the rather chaotic thoughts that run through Sza’s lyrics, “‘leave me lonely for prettier women, you know I need to much attention for shit like that, you know your wrong for shit like that, I can be your supermodel, if you believe, if you see it in me, see it in me, see it in me… I don’t see myself.”

The simple bass guitar strumming injects a natural, beachy vibe to the song and the catchy drum beat towards the end, concludes the song nicely.

‘Love Galore’ featuring Travis Scott

This song has been out for a while so I’m not going to harp on about it. But this song is a bop and such a perfect summer song with its tropical vibes.

The fusion of Sza and Travis’ voices make for a seductive yet sweet song, and the fantasy of the song is captured equally well in the accompanying music video.

‘Doves in the Wind’ featuring Kendrick Lamar

Well, Sza ain’t scared to speak her mind with “real n**** don’t deserve pussy” authoritatively opening the track. The song appears to be all about the search for real love and respect.

The dulled old-school drums and synth feels slow and relaxed fitting well with Sza’s calming vocals.

The track hints at a Forrest Gump reference and Kendrick’s rap seriously adds another element to the song. The carefully thought emphasis and selection of words adds impact and makes certain parts of the song stick in your head.

‘Drew Barrymore’

Once again, I won’t harp on a lot about this one as it has been out for a while now. But this song is definitely still one of my faves!!!

The percussive jingles and bold electric guitar gives off this slowed, chilled rock vibe.

The lyrical composition is well thought-out, “Am I warm enough for ya outside baby, warm enough for ya inside me”.

I feel she really lays it all out bare on the table about her loneliness and self-worth, which I feel a lot of other girls and women find relatable and I think that is why this song is so god damn good!

‘Prom’

Opening with an upbeat drum beat, very similar to that in Frank Ocean’s ‘Lost’. With a very 70’s up-tempo pop feel with the warmth of the synths and electric guitar adds to this ‘teen prom neon-light dancefloor’ type feel.

Particularly admirable is the play-on word of the title, before listening to this track I envisioned she was going to talk about ‘Prom’ as in the dance, but the lyrics are more about half-fulfilled promises:

“Promise to get a little
Better as I get older
And you’re so patient
And sick of waitin’
Promise to do better
Shoulda coulda”.

‘The Weekend’

With a very euphoric synth giving you this feeling as if you’re in ‘The Garden of Eden’ much like natural surroundings displayed on the album cover.

But I also feel that this track very much has a ‘Frank Ocean feel’ to it with the varying synths combined with an elevator-type tune brought to life with a passionate beat.

‘Go Gina’

Ok, is it just me or is that bicycle bell I can hear….?

Something about this song is so peaceful and has this similar chilled vibe that you feel is weaved in each song. When Sza sings out ‘Go Gina’ puts you in a good mood as you feel as if she’s talking to you as a listener.

Also, those strings at the very end….. if only she included them more throughout the song because they were heavenly to listen to. 

‘Garden (Say it Like Dat)’

This track is very much similar to the tracks before it with a computer-like sounds fused with very real, natural lyrics. 

‘Broken Clocks’

With the woozy synths and claps make you feel as if you are backtracking in time fitting the mood of the song and lyrics well.

‘Anything’

The sparkling synth effects envisions in your mind fireworks in the sky. A song on this album definitely isn’t complete without a kick-ass drum beat and this song is no different in that regard.

Additionally, the synth effects further helps to create an ‘exciting’, ‘up-for-anything’ soundscape of the lyrics, “you take me anywhere, down for the ride”.

‘Wavy’ featuring James Fauntleroy

The opening atmospheric yet ambient keys growing louder and louder are reminiscent of rolling waves in the ocean.

The clicks and chimes add this classic RnB feel into the song.

Fauntleroy injects his soulful vocals fusing with Sza’s vocals just takes your mind on a musical vacation.

‘Normal Girl’

This sound reminds me of an old video game sound on repeat. Then the bold ever-present drums kick in and makes you instantly just wanna bop your head.

I particularly love Sza’s descending vocals at 0.51, where she sings “I wish I was a normal girl,” and then sings “I’ll never be, never be”.

She also makes a rather dominant reference to Drake’s ‘Controlla’ when she sings “you like it, when I be aggressive….”.

‘Pretty Little Birds’ featuring Isaiah Rashad

This song is a little different in that the sound is darker and deeper.

The sounds builds and varies quite nicely as the song progresses with added trumpets which are a pleasant contribution.

Isaiah’s deep, raspy vocals which mould well to the song have this kind of ‘Future’ feel to them.

Overall, this is such a pretty song which ends with Sza singing “do we hit the heavens?” complimented with synths which create this feeling as if you are ascending into the sky.

‘20 Something’

Sza just speaks a whole lot of real shit in this track, just unpacking it all as she honestly reflects on who she is currently. She talks about the difficulties we face finding our way through our ‘twenties’ and finding out who we are.

As she sings, “Stuck in those 20 somethings” / “that’s me, miss twenty something”.

The simple electric guitar strumming is so simple yet purposively lets the lyrics speak.

The track also showcases her varied vocal range, particularly at 1.40 of the song.

Then the album and song comes to a fitting end with Sza’s mother saying, “And if it’s an illusion, I don’t want to wake up. I’m gonna hang on to it. Because the alternative is an abyss, is just a hole, a darkness, a nothingness. Who wants that? You know? So that’s what I think about CTRL, and that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it”.

Buy the album on Itunes here.

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