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SZA self-reflects on her captivating debut album

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Isaac Wert

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“Ctrl” pairs thoughtful lyrics and mesmerizing beats

Used+with+permission+from+RCA
Used with permission from RCA

Used with permission from RCA

Used with permission from RCA

On her debut album, alt. R&B singer-songwriter SZA weaves thoughtful lyrics and mesmerizing beats to create an opus of self-reflection.

Solána Rowe, under the stage name “SZA,” released her debut album “Ctrl” following two successful EPs (extended plays). Rowe, known for her raspy voice, co-wrote and was featured on Rihanna’s “ANTI” album opener, “Consideration,” and co-wrote Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé’s self-empowerment anthem, “Feeling Myself.”

On “Ctrl,” Rowe uses a pallet of guitars, strings, and synths to paint a stunning self-portrait, digging deep to reflect on her insecurities and uncertainties. “Ctrl” features Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, James Fauntleroy, and Isaiah Rashad, all of which support Rowe in telling her stories and detailing her emotions.

The album is interspersed with conversations between Rowe and her family/friends, which further contribute to the album’s personal nature and do not distract from the music.

The album opens with one of these spoken moments, in which Rowe’s mother says, “that is my greatest fear, that if I lost control or did not have control, things would just, you know, I would be fatal,” as Rowe plunges into a beautifully strummed intro, called “Supermodel,” recalling her anger when a former lover left her on Valentine’s Day.

Following the opening track, the album dives deeper into Rowe’s psyche, exploring the intricacies of relationships, insecurities and success.

One of the album’s best tracks, “Prom,” features Rowe apologizing to a lover for her delayed emotional maturity. Her promises to grow and do better are underscored by a captivating pop-disco beat that makes for a standout track in the midst of many slower, moody songs.

On “The Weekend,” another highlight, Rowe candidly reflects on her relationship with a man she loves who has another girl, comparing the girlfriend to a 9-5 job and herself to the weekend.

Garden (Say It Like Dat)” presents Rowe praising a lover for embracing the aspects of herself she’s insecure about, combining trap production with bubbling electronic synths for a light love song.

The album concludes with “20 Something,” which starts with guitar strums similar to the album’s opener. “20 Something” expresses SZA’s reflection on her fleeting youth. SZA croons, “How could it be? 20 something, all alone still, not a thing in my name, ain’t got nothin’, runnin’ from love,” bringing the album to a satisfying conclusion.

When spinning “Ctrl,” casual listeners may lose themselves in Rowe’s hypnotic vocals or the album’s lush production. However, to fully experience Rowe’s artistry, one must not only pay attention to “Ctrl’s” sound, but Rowe’s dense and meaningful lyrics as well.

“Ctrl” is a masterful demonstration of Rowe’s innermost soul, and undoubtedly deserves a listen.

For those interested in listening, “Ctrl” is currently available on iTunes for purchase and Spotify for streaming.

“Ctrl:” 4/5

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SZA self-reflects on her captivating debut album