Sza’s award-winning album Ctrl has, easily, become one of the most popular R&B albums of the decade. It has been almost 5 years since the album release. Yet, it’s easy to find yourself mocking Sza’s grandma and mother’s witty advice on control.
This past month I have listened to Ctrl so many times, I think it’s unhealthy! According to Twitter, I’m not the only one who listens to the album religiously, either. Many users go as far as to say that the album is like therapy. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t open Apple Music and shuffle the album anytime there’s a minor inconvenience.
As I was listening to ‘Supermodel’ for the thousandth time, I began to wonder: what is it about this album? That’s when it hit me: the album is so vague, yet so relatable that any time you turn it on, it can speak to you like profit in the pulpit!
There are 14 songs–or should I say 14 prophecies–on the album. Let’s break it down!
Assuming you are listening to the album in order–highly recommend it when your life is falling apart on a Sunday afternoon!– the first song would be “Supermodel”.
This song is one of my favorites! It is arguably the most relatable song on the album. You are greeted with Sza’s mother talking about how losing control is one of her biggest fears. See! We’re starting relatable. Who doesn’t have a fear of losing control of their life?
The music then starts with a calming guitar sound. The lyrics start by presenting Sza as a confident woman that is tired of being treated poorly. As the song continues, it becomes less about how she is treated and more about how she needs the other person to make her feel good. She addresses self-image issues by saying “I wish I was comfortable by myself but I need you”.
It’s safe to say that this song is perfect when you feel like the person you depended on for reassurance falls through. Many times I have listened to this song and that person was my significant other, a sneaky link, my mom, or sometimes myself.
This song is the perfect song when your sneaky link is acting out a little too much. Following “Supermodel” this is a more upbeat song but still a chill track. The song starts with her feature, Travis Scott repeating “I need” followed with Sza’s dragged out “love”. Then, it first starts with Sza saying farewell to her summer fling.
It appears that fling has a girl! I know for a fact that we’ve all been there. You know, when you meet a guy, seeing him on the low, and then you find out it’s someone else… That’s what’s happening here. Her references, like calling the fling “spilled milk.”
The song takes a turn at the end when she says she’s looking for the fling’s light in their city. She also says that “love” is the only thing keeping her by their side.
In other words, anytime you think you’re going to leave your side piece, but that one thing is too good to leave alone…this song is for you!
Doves in the Wind
Let me just start by saying, anytime Sza and Kendrick Lamar are on the same track, you’re in for a treat. I think this is the perfect song to drink wine with your girls when talking about how men only want sex. It’s giving an unbothered hottie!
The song addresses how men always jump the gun and want to go straight for sex. The best way to get the things you want is to just sit back and not be a bum N-word. In addition to addressing sex-hungry men, the two give you play-by-play on how to get.
Like they said Attention and you n*ggas! Take notes!
I’ve never been a fan of this song. I only play this on a summer day where I’m just riding with no destination. However, there are some times I play this intentionally.
I love to play this along with Supermodel. It’s another song about self-worth and self-image. Instead of putting herself down, she’s admitting that she has fallen short of her “feminine” duties like being warm, shaving her legs. She’s questioning if the other person really loves her or if they love the idea of being the perfect woman.
The song is pretty straightforward and always makes me want to get up and do the Scarlet Johanson dance from the Marriage Story.
This one is a fun one! In my opinion, Sza has the perfect balance of sad/depressed music and feel good music. It’s one the more upbeat songs and gives hopeful vibes.
Per usual, Sza is going through some self esteem issues. I like to listen to this one when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need an extra push. This song reminds me that everyone is working in progress as they’re aging.
I don’t think this song needs explanation, as it was a hot topic in 2017-18. Many people think this song is about being a side chick, but I beg to differ. It sounds like this is a known player that has many different girls. Sza doesn’t care about the other girls as long as her time is her time.
This song perfectly describes the dating scene of Gen-Z. This is “sneaky link” culture or what we call the “talking stage”. At this point, it’s free game with who you’re sexual with, just make sure you’re here on our designated days/times, SIMPLE!
It took me quite a while to enjoy these songs. Not going to lie, I skip this one… a lot. I think it’s more so because I like to be sad when I listen to Ctrl. However, this song is perfect for when you’re pulling back from your friends and loved ones.
Sza addresses hanging out with her stoner friends and rumors from her inner circle. Wherever you go ghost friends (and your late-night buddies) they often call you “stuck up” which is why I LOVE the line “them jeans, they must uptight mama”, Like Nah, I just mom jeans and weed! You can mind your business though!
Garden (Say It Like Dat)
Depending on the day, this is my favorite song on the album. This song reminds me of a young woman in her twenties searching for love and acceptance in men. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we like compliments from the opposite sex telling us “our booty getting bigger” and other small details. Sza and I both know our booties haven’t gotten bigger…but sometimes it’s nice to hear it.
She also touches on the fear of someone you’ve grown to love hating the actual person you are. Having low-self esteem can interfere with relationships. It’s scary when you always present yourself as confident. Sometimes as a, specifically, Black woman we think showing anything but confidence is weakness, but it’s not. However, sometimes it may seem like if you doubt yourself in front of others, you’re appearing as a fraud. This is not true. We, Black women, are humans. Sometimes we need to hear those lies and affirmations of love.
This song is the perfect song for when you’re feeling like time isn’t a thing. For me, sometimes I feel like time is at a standstill, like I’ll be young forever. This is usually when I’m so high that I can’t feel my knees, but still young nonetheless.
The song addresses everything from working so much, seeing the same guy every day, and just going through the motions. I like to listen to this on a busy day with my windows down. That’s when I feel the most relatable to this one.
This is one of those songs where its meaning can change depending on how you are feeling. It talks about a person–or could be a thing– that you want to accept, back so badly. Sza is telling this entity that it could take her anywhere, do anything with her, as long as it is with her and paying attention to her.
Most times, I imagine my dreams and aspirations when listening to this song. Do my dreams even know I’m dreaming of them? Do they know I’m alive?!
On the other hand, a younger version of me would think of my father. I desperately wanted him to pay attention to me and be with me, without asking.
This song could literally be about Anything, no pun intended.
I only listen to this song when I’m listening to the album as a whole. Technically it’s an interlude, but you would never know! It seems just like a shorter song.
This song is a good passenger song. When you’re just enjoying life, allowing things to just play out, this is the perfect song!
I absolutely adore this song. This song hits all the insecurities for me!
The pressure as a Black girl to be unique, quirky and likable all in one is quite hard. At times I don’t feel like a “normal girl” because I’m too politically, not feminine enough, etc. I know that I’m not the typical girl you’d like to take around your homeboys or family. I also know for a fact that my father isn’t exactly proud of me (our relationship is non-existent, mostly because I’m not a “normal” girl).
My favorite part is at the end when she says “before you figured out I was just a normal girl”. Sometimes we get so caught up on what;s perfect and what’s not that we realize there isn’t a “normal.” As long as you love the other person, they should be worth being shown off and being proud of.
If you ever feel like you don’t fit into society’s standards of being beautiful, this is a good song. It’s a hidden gem in the album and I think it deserves more recognition!
Pretty Little Birds
I know I’ve said a lot of songs are my favorite songs on this album BUT, this is actually my favorite–no matter the day. If this song comes on when I’m getting out of the car, I will stop what I’m doing to listen to this entire song. It’s that good! So good that it’s tatted on me!
In comparison to her lyrics in “Drew Barrymore”, she has now found someone that makes her want to do all those “feminine” things like shave her legs. At the beginning of the song, she paints a picture of a bird who keeps being tossed around, but it keeps trying and flying. At some point, the bird even swims.
Isaiah Rashad’s verse brings in a beautiful and encouraging perspective. He’s telling Sza that she’s made for the heights he can’t afford. Then the two sing together about how their “wings” don’t spread like they used to but they want to fly with each other as high as possible.
I think it’s the perfect song for when you’re in love with someone. The best part about love is when you realize the person is perfect at all, but you don’t mind. That’s what this song always reminds me of.
This ballad is the perfect song to close the album. I think the issues she sings about are definitely 20 something issues. This song sings life into one’s 20 somethings. It’s manifesting good vibes, addressing how it sounds permanent but how things will hopefully get better.
I think she brings about all the fears you have when you’re in your 20s: love, ownership, making your mark, and having fun.
“Ctrl” has become a classic for my generation. I don’t see this album losing its timeliness anytime soon. I love it for its relatability and I’m sure I will relate to it.
Next time you wonder why this album is your therapy, actually sit and think about why you chose the song you chose to play.