The most media hyped album in R&B right now has finally emerged and this early in the calendar it is of course impossible to crown SZA the queen of the genre, but it is possible for her to stake a claim.
SZA has been on the media train for the last month.
Her roll out has seen her make appearances on every major radio station in New York City, as well as an hour in conversation with Joe Budden on YouTube channel, Complex News‘ premiere hip-hop podcast, Everyday Struggle.
Top Dawg’s nest haired (now) first lady, just eight-months after suggesting she was to quit music on Twitter last year amidst huge album delay frustrations, has received the true red carpet treatment through June and early July.
Treatment which SZA’s reputation warrants, especially as Ctrl is her first full release since debut album, Z, in 2014.
Ctrl opens with a mysterious conversation from an unknown woman giving advice to who can be assumed to be SZA herself.
The conversations quickly becomes the centre piece of the project, introducing the subjects that SZA is discussing in the songs.
I won’t spoil the story for you though…
Supermodel, the opening track of the album is a stripped back take of R&B – Unresolved harmonic chords dictate the rhythm of the track’s free flowing melody using triplet patterns through every bar.
The song offers a subtle reminder of the psychedelic nature of SZA’s music plus a small nod to TDE label mate, Kendrick Lamar‘s track from Damn, Pride, which was produced another of Compton‘s own, Steve Lacy.
The next track, the lead single from Ctrl, Love Galore feat. Travis Scott, echoes in a more traditional version of modern R&B chord progressions and structures which are being championed currently by PARTYNEXTDOOR and Bryson Tiller this year especially.
Unlike her previous album, Ctrl holds a much more upbeat groove by comparison to Z.
Although this is definitely more of an album you would want to dance to, SZA maintains her lyrical integrity in the development of her instrumentals.
Whether she’s talking sex, love, isolation, Drew Barrymore… SZA’s pulls no punches.
So much so that in probably the stand out track of this project, Doves In The Wind feat. Kendrick Lamar fulfils the criteria for a Parental Advisory label as ‘pussy’ is said an astounding 26-times in the 4:26 long track.
Despite this, the song is incredibly easy listening and perhaps, SZA’s stand out vocal performance on the album, along with track six; The Weekend.
There are many other things to love about this album, it is far too early to begin to congratulate SZA on a job well done, even before her first-week sales figures come through.
However the album sells, it is an impressive return from the previously young experimental vocalist, now fully fledged woman of soul music.
Albums from genres like R&B have been missing albums like Ctrl in recent times.
SZA seems less concerned with streaming revenues and deems the cohesiveness of a project much more important on Ctrl, probably important she did seeing as this is her first album in three years.
If you ever read this SZA (unlikely but still..), plead with Top Dawg and anyone else involved that we don’t have to wait so long for your next project.
Listen to the new album; SZA – Ctrl, below: