ALBUM REVIEW: Ctrl – SZA (2017)

By Emma Markman Morris

This term, Xtreme Radio is proud to present our featured presenter reviews. Each week, a new presenter will show their music taste through an album review and a featured artist article. First up, Emma talks about her love for SZA’s 2017 debut album, Ctrl.


Ctrl is the highly anticipated debut album from New Jersey artist SZA, an album where R&B mixes with neo-soul to create a beautiful soundtrack to the lyrics portraying blame and admission of fault in relationships. SZA uses the pain and heartbreak from previous relationships to give light to issues she’s kept bottled up just for our ears.

The record delves into her personal relationship with her sexuality in songs like ‘Doves in the Wind’ and ‘Normal Girl’, with proclamations on her body’s worth and how some of her previous partners seemed to only love her for her sex. This is used alongside songs like ‘The Weekend’ where she talks about being both the “main” and the “side” chick in a man’s life, but doesn’t take it as this is what she’s worth because of where she stands in his life. She knows she’s not the only one in his life, and she doesn’t care – it doesn’t make her any less of a woman, or diminish her value.

The lead single off the album, and a personal favourite, ‘Drew Barrymore’ speaks on dealing with insecurity and a lack of personal self worth, a topic also discussed on ‘Garden (Say It Like Dat)’ where she delves into her physical insecurities. In an interview, SZA says how this song is like a letter to her younger self, and so links in with how she’s finding her self-worth within herself and is trying not to attach it to another person.

In ‘Broken Clocks’ and ‘Anything’ SZA questions whether or not love is even really worth it in the end, saying “still love is still love” and asking if the person she’s with even cares about her. These songs all come to a cusp in ’20 Something’, the most bare and open song of them all, and the finale you’d expect from such an honest album. She knows she’s not completely together, she knows she’s got things to work on, and acknowledges that these are all things every 20-something deals with. She also knows these are the years where she can be carefree and youthful without the burdens of true adulthood and adolescence.

Ctrl ends as it begins, with SZA’s mother’s take on control, where even if it’s just an illusion she’s going to hold onto it, because what else is there? This album is a journey for SZA, taking the years she has to make it, it’s as though this is her way of controlling everything that’s happened in her life so far. This album was one of my favourites last year, and it’s devastating and disappointing it didn’t win any Grammys last night. It’s beauty and honesty is profound, and is something every young person struggling with their relationship with themselves and their place in their love life should listen to.

SCORE: 9/10


Emma Markman Morris is a 3rd Year Maths student, Deputy Station Manager for Xtreme Radio, and presents a show on a Sunday afternoon with her co-presenter Kiera.


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