At last you can clap your ears on SZA’s debut album ‘Ctrl’. Some high profile collaborations and 14 tracks of high quality alternative R&B, we think you’ll dig this one.
We call SZA’s style alternative R&B, but really that’s a little lazy. It’s a whole heap of other influences moulded into her own unique style. The grass on the path for the vibe we get from the album may have been cut back and made easier to traverse by the likes of Frank Ocean, but don’t think for a moment that this is a rehash of what’s come before.
Opener ‘Supermodel’ is a bitter rant, vocally full of attitude but backed by low key bass root notes and a simple guitar chords that swirl left to right in the stereo field. A pretty laid back jazz drum part does eventually arrive but it’s an after thought, not a feature.
The link up with Kendrick Lamar on ‘Doves In The Wind’ is a more conventional hip-hop style jam, still retaining the mellow vibe as it bobs along with its soft organ and sparse beat.
The first three tracks on the album, whilst excellent in their own right, appear to be a warm up for SZA, with her voice really finding its place in amongst the blend of strings, up front drums and underwater guitar on the slow paced ‘Drew Barrymore’. The choruses have the polished feel of a pop sing along, but then you get the gravelly sass and bounce in the lead up to them.
It’s straight up trap on ‘Garden (Say It Like Dat)’, but at SZA’s own pace. This isn’t your average club-shutting big beat, but a foundation to be built upon with the vocal strength and dexterity that shines across the album.
While SZA doesn’t seem to be making music to appease the formulaic desires of the pop masses, she clearly recognises the strengths in that music and applies it in her own compositions to great effect. There are no big bangers or obvious chart toppers on the album, but we were still lapping up each tune as they were exactly those things.
SZA ‘Ctrl’ is out now on Top Dawg.