CTRL by SZA, via Top Dawg Entertainment and RCA Records
Honesty hurts when you’re getting older; it is a universal truth that comes with passing of time and age. With Ctrl, SZA has managed to turn much of the emotional pain and turmoil that comes with that emotional growth into a beautifully curated 14 track album and declaration of love to all the women in the world learning to love themselves.
While SZA intended for the album to play more like an intimate reading of her own personal diary on the journey of self exploration, Ctrl ultimately blossomed into an all-too-relatable soundtrack for all 20-somethings. The songstress’s intimate tales of gender-bending imperfections, unrequited love and self doubt that fill the pages of the diary-esque album with some of our all too real realities: Addictive Vices, Fuckboys, Self Doubt, Unmet Expectations. Yet, it was her revelations about the difficult, prismatic and complex experiences of women of color that made the album such a powerful proclamation about the strength of all women trying to learn to love themselves while surviving in a world that consistently works against those agendas. So often generalized or romanticized within mainstream music, the topic of a woman’s journey toward emotional recovery was made impressionable, danceable, and relatable by the album.
Raw in emotion, unfiltered in thought, and featuring guest spots from heavy hitters like Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, and Solange, Ctrl proved that SZA was here to play the music game by her own rules. This year, Ctrl became more than an album, but a bold statement in a year of fear, uncertainty and hardship. SZA reminded us all that self love was the radical notion that we all needed to master to get us through a difficult year, and it will definitely continue to do so for all the ones yet to come. The outside world will always provide us with laborious emotions, complicated heartbreak and exhausting chaos, but being honestly and emotionally reflective, vulnerable, and loving ourselves in all our imperfect, unapologetic glory will provide us all our own ultimate Ctrl through it all. And this album is here to remind us, every time we need even the smallest reminder, how much we have to gain by loving ourselves first.