The day in the life of a twenty-something is finding yourself in a constant battle with growing up, a war fueled by confusion and fear. With her debut studio album, CTRL, SZA bares all in her self-documented confessional, guiding fellow millennials through the relatable lost journey of conflicting relationships and the fear of losing control of life.
Straight from the get-go, SZA sets the pace of the central theme of the album being control, as on the opening track "Supermodel" SZA seeks desire to be alone but can’t resist the attraction of comfort as she sings “Why I can't stay alone just by myself? Wish I was comfortable just with myself...But I need you, but I need you, but I need you”. Thoroughly examining the idea of controlling conflicting relationships, the songstress follows the theme throughout the first half of the album.
On "Love Galore", SZA knows her role in a loveless affair, while on “The Weekend” she reimagines the experience by reversing the ideology of who’s the position in power in a relationship, introducing characters that are central to empowering others who can relate to her story, while on “Doves In The Wind” the songstress references Forrest Gump as she seeks a guy who wants more than what's expected. Going back and forth between themes of unbalanced relationships and the insecurities it brings, SZA begins to acknowledge herself as an unassured twenty something on "Drew Barrymore", "Broken Clocks", and "Normal Girl".
The album shifts its focus onto another chapter of being a twenty-something as she examines the effects of not being in control of what's next in life. On "Prom", the songstress rewinds back to high school, every young adults coming of age era, as she retracts her fears of growing up and what the future has in store, while on the closing track "20-Something", she sings “how could it be? 20 something, all alone still, not a thing in my name. Ain't got nothin'....Only know fear...That's me, Ms. 20 Something”, as she bares all through the emotions that has developed from the responsibilities of being a twenty something. Capturing an array of complex feelings, SZA allows herself to embrace her vulnerability that reassures that this twenty-something is unapologetic and honest.
Acknowledging the struggles of being a twenty-something, SZA has created a safe space for not only herself, but for listeners who able to relate with the songstress on the scary adventure that is growing up. With a distinct perspective on life and love, SZA remained consistent with the theme of the album while allowing high-profile collaborations to neither overshadow her or shift the focus off of the story being told. Maintaining control of life is a challenge that only veterans have been able to accomplish, and with the recorded conversations with her mother throughout the album, SZA has been able to grasp on to the fact that control is a natural process of human nature, and the journey of life is part of the complexity that is with finding yourself.
Through intriguing songwriting, and soul bearing vocals CTRL is a compelling debut by an honest, pure, and vulnerable artist, who’s time is now.