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SZA’s ‘Ctrl’: An Analysis of the Album About Summer Flings and Insecurities

In SZA’s long anticipated album, Ctrl, SZA explores all aspects of sex, love, and relationships. Ctrl is not only a coming of age album, but it also tackles the deeper adult issues of trust, insecurities, and emotional health. SZA also just announced her tour last week!

 

Supermodel

Lyrically, “Supermodel” is one of the most emotionally raw songs on the album. And SZA’s passionate, unfiltered voice paired with the acoustic guitar makes this song even more heartbreaking. In this track, we see SZA struggling with the unintended psychological effects of being in such an unhealthy relationship. SZA describes her lover as being “temporary,” yet they have detrimentally poisoned the way that she views herself for the long-term. SZA states that her man left her for “prettier women,” which causes her to make a tired and heartbroken plea after realizing how easily forgettable she was to him. While she promises at the beginning of the song that she’s “really leaving,” she later goes on to tell her lover that she “could be [his] supermodel if [he would] believe,” highlighting the crux of the song: SZA equally wants to stay out of and stay in the relationship. After SZA seems to blame her own physical appearance for her partner’s actions, she delves deeper into her own insecurities when she says “I don’t see myself. Why I can’t stay alone just by myself? Wish I was comfortable just with myself, but I need you.” She touches on the incredible complexity of needing someone’s company even though they cause you immense pain. Through this song, SZA was able to give a voice to people in unhealthy relationships who believe that they caused their partners’ reprehensible actions, shedding light on how moving on from someone is an intense process.

 

Love Galore

“Love Galore” is a mellow, ballad-like R&B track that captures the emotions of a short-lived summer fling. After the summer romance has ended, SZA’s ex-lover seems to still be irritating her. With lyrics like“Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me? Why you bother me when you know you got a woman? Why you hit me when you know you know better” SZA implies that she wishes her summer fling would have shown some sort of remorse for the way that he treated her. SZA states that she regrets this relationship, and bluntly says that her ex has “a problem.” The chill vibe of the song is reinforced by Travis Scott when he melodically raps “You like to get me high. You don’t want no one beside ya.” He seems to imply that SZA’s ex-lover was only interested in the sexual perks of a committed relationship and not in being emotionally invested.

 

Doves In The Wind

“Doves In the Wind” touches on the importance of ㅡ you guessed it ㅡ p***y. SZA opens with “Real ni**as do not deserve p***y,” which ironically pokes fun at hypermasculine norms. SZA’s first verse refers to the ever popular movie Forrest Gump as she sings “Forrest Gump had a lot goin’ for him. Never without p***y.” The lyrics imply that all of Forrest Gump’s accomplishments were possible because Jenny was a driving force. Later, Kendrick Lamar introduces the *radical* idea that women can live without men when he raps “How many times she gotta tell you that d**k is disposable?” SZA elaborates on this idea when she sings “You could never trivialize p***y,” and “High key, your d**k is weak, buddy. It’s only replaced by a rubber substitute.” Through these lyrics, SZA is able to display her contempt with male fickleness, while also insinuating that women are stronger because they are often not able to be swayed so heavily by the power of sex.  

 

Drew Barrymore

SZA’s insecurities are again highlighted in this song about a failing relationship. After her significant other brings one of his friends in “her mom jeans and her new vans,” SZA begins to feel inadequate. In the chorus, she begins to question her relevance as a girlfriend, singing “Warm enough for ya outside baby, yeah (Tell me that it’s warm enough here for ya.) Is it warm enough for ya inside me, me, me, me.” After comparing herself to other women that are outside of her relationship, SZA begins apologizing for what she views as her flaws in a very raw way: “I’m sorry I’m not more attractive, I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike. I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night.” She goes on to say “I’m sorry you got karma comin’ to you, collect and soak in it right,” implying that her significant other is making morally questionable decisions at the expense of SZA’s emotional wellbeing. Overall, this track continues on the previous themes of the album by being another blatant display of the insecurities that stem from being in an unhealthy relationship.

 

Prom

The word “prom” itself connotes a time of carefree irresponsibility and adolescence, which is a perfect fit for this song. In “Prom,” SZA reflects on her inability to mature as she recounts that she would “promise to get a little better as I get older. And you’re so patient and sick of waitin’. Promise to do better.” Her partner seems to be accepting the complexities of adult life, yet SZA seems to be putting off responsibilities and expectations. In the chorus, SZA tells her partner to not “take it personal,” referring to her immaturity. “Prom” details something that is not talked about in present-day society: we are not always ready to deal with so much responsibility when we enter adulthood in our 20s. SZA covers this topic in a relatable, but genuine way, which enables her listeners to find solace the fact that their life does not have to completely be pieced together by the time they hit adulthood. 

 

The Weekend

“The Weekend” is a firsthand account of being with someone who is already in another relationship. SZA first acknowledges her feelings of guilt as she sings “The feelin’ is reckless of knowin’ it’s selfish, kowin’ I’m desperate,” yet she quenches those feelings when she says “I don’t care long as you’re here by 10:30, no later than, drop them drawers give me what I want.” At this point, it is obvious that SZA is mainly interested in a sexual relationship with this person, but she later admits to wanting more: “I mean I’m saying what kind of deal is two days? I need me at least ’bout four of them, more of them, more of you on me.” During the chorus, it becomes apparent that the guy who SZA is involved with is also involved with multiple other women, “My man is my man is your man. Heard it’s her man too.” Overall, this song details the escapades of being involved with a disloyal person, but SZA does not necessarily place blame on herself for participating in the affair because she is not the only “other woman.”

 

Go Gina

SZA uses this song to contrast the differences in personalities between her and a girl named Gina. SZA has “been dropping out” and has been “too stoned to pay attention” and Gina seems to be over-critically judging SZA for her decisions. Gina is worried that SZA “brings [her] out of character every time again.” In the chorus, SZA almost jeeringly sings “Damn Gina, damn Gina, them jeans, they must be uptight mama,” and later continues with “I belong to nobody. Hope it don’t bother you. You can mind your business. I belong to nobody. Try not to disturb and mind my business. Still works for me.” The true message of the song is to just let other people be instead of casting judgment on how they are living their own lives.

 

Garden (Say It Like Dat)

SZA begins “Garden” by detailing all of the positive characteristics of the person that she was involved with. Both SZA and her significant other seem to be putting up emotional barriers, and in the chorus, SZA pleads “Open your heart up, hoping I’ll never find out that you’re anyone else, ‘Cause I love you just how you are.” However, SZA acknowledges that she is doing the exact same thing, because her lover will never love her if they know details about her past. This song displays an inner struggle within SZA; she feels as though her partner will only be able to love the good aspects of her life, and will be unable to handle to darker parts of her character. She is worried they will only love her for her pretty flowers, but not any of the underlying roots and weeds of her garden.

 

Broken Clocks

“Broken Clocks” seems to be written during the aftermath of a bad breakup, with the broken clocks being an analogy for SZA dwelling in her past mistakes. During the chorus, SZA states “All I got is these broken clocks. I ain’t got no time, just burning daylight.” There is a past love who is trying to make a reappearance in her life, but instead of sidelining it, she reluctantly puts extra effort into fostering that relationship again. However, through all of the turmoil, SZA insists that her feelings are “still love” towards her past and her ex-lover, which can be both a mature perspective that she is forgiving and an immature perspective that she cannot admit the relationship is sometimes unhealthy. This song definitely shows the evolution of SZA’s character. “Broken Clocks” stands in stark contrast with previous tracks, most notably “Prom,” which detailed SZA’s admitted immaturity.

 

Anything

“Anything” has a similar theme to “Broken Clocks” as SZA is in a seemingly stagnant relationship where we are able to see her grow increasingly dissatisfied in this love affair. After admitting that she is “down for the ride,” SZA acknowledges that her lover is hard to keep up with, when she sings, “Keepin’ up is hard to do. Even harder feeling heavy, steady chasin’ you.” Even though SZA and her significant other are in a relationship, she feels as though she has to spend a great amount of effort in order to keep them happy. Even then, SZA asks if her lover is lonely, inadvertently telling the listener that her partner is disinterested in her life when she repeats, “Do do you even know I’m alive?”

 

Wavy (Interlude)

“Wavy” is a catchy, 90s R&B reminiscent song that SZA uses to showcase her impeccable vocal range. During the pre-chorus, SZA seems dissatisfied with the way she is currently living her life, when she states, “Now I’m feeling’ one out, lookin’ for a way out. Somebody show me the door.” The overall vibe of the song is, in fact, wavy, reinforced by James Fauntleroy beginning the chorus with “I was wavin.” It seems as though SZA is saying goodbye and moving on from a particularly painful part of her life, perhaps the stagnant relationship that she detailed in the previous two songs. “Wavy” is a song that focuses on the positives of leaving a painful part of your life. Whether it is drug addiction, a rough financial patch, or a messy relationship, “Wavy” is applicable to all of life’s unexpected and potentially unwelcome obstacles. 

 

Normal Girl

SZA’s insecurities are again highlighted in this song when she alludes that she is not what people would consider to be “wife material.” SZA says that she “loses [her] cool” and begins the chorus with “Wish I was the type of girl you take over to mama. The type of girl, I know my daddy, he’d be proud of.” Through these few lyrical lines, it becomes apparent that SZA feels inadequate in relationships. She goes on to say that she wishes she could be a “normal girl,” which is a statement that is sharply contrasted later on during verse two when SZA describes herself as being “aggressive.” SZA seems to feel like she is not feminine enough, and she even asks the listener, “How do I be? How do I be a lady?” At this point in the album, it is extremely obvious that SZA is confident about her sexuality, yet more insecure about her body and her emotions, especially when they pertain to long-term relationships.

 

Pretty Little Birds

“Pretty Little Birds” begins as an uplifting anthem to anyone that has been broken or hurt before (aka almost everyone). SZA begins the song with “you are but a phoenix among feathers” to teach us that we special amongst a world of normality. She goes on to sing “you’ve hit the windows a few times,” representing all of the obstacles and heartache that one has to go through in order to become a pretty little bird. During the chorus, SZA sings, “You still ain’t scared of no heights” to show that even after heartbreak, people are able to persevere. During the second verse, SZA alludes to a relationship when she says “Told you I like gentle giants so you softened up and you been jack’n, bean’n, stalk’n just to get to me love. I wanna be your golden goose. I wanna shave my legs for you.” While SZA continues this song’s established mythological fairytale analogies, her statement that she wants to shave for her partner is especially telling. The previous song “Normal Girl” displayed SZA’s wishes to be stereotypically feminine, but not her will to do so. However, in this song, SZA wants to shave to appease that feminine expectation in modern society. SZA obviously is very invested in whoever the song is written about, and after Isaiah Rashad says that SZA and her partner can “fly to the south,” SZA acknowledges that she wants to fly away and commit to her lover, yet she is unable to do so because her “wings don’t spread like they used to,” which insinuates that she is not as trusting as she once used to be. 

 

20 Something

SZA returns to the raw acoustic sound that the listener first hears on this album’s opening track, “Supermodel.” “20 Something” was most likely written at the end of a relationship, and SZA uses this event to reflect on her current life. In “20 Something,” SZA explores the juxtaposition of one’s 20s being the most exciting yet the most disappointing time in his or her life. SZA has “not a thing in [her] name,” yet she also is “hopin’ [her] 20 somethings won’t end.” This song is the perfect way to end such an anticipated album; it is an ode to her past, and a wish for her future.

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