Fans have been patiently waiting for Solana Rowe, the 26 year old New Jersey transplant, to bless the air waves with her seducing, soul throbbing, melodies for about the past 3 years. Rowe (more widely known as SZA) captured audiences across the globe with her past two EPs titled “S” and “Z”. After the anticipation spiraled, almost out of control, for her last EP to conclude the trilogy, “A”, fans learned that they would never get this mixtape. Instead, they would receive something even better, an entire album!
The lone female on Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), boasting label mates such as Kendrick Lamar and School Boy Q, released a highly anticipated album that tastefully captures every woman’s journey into self-discovery of herself and the walk while setting the standards for her life. Rowe’s debut album, CTRL, is a true celebration of the exploitation insecurities a woman goes through while identifying her power and prowess in life, love, and friendships. Rowe takes us places that we have either been numerous times before or still currently experiencing. Wounds that are deep enough and fresh enough to still remember.
CTRL is sprinkled with words of wisdom from Rowe’s mother and grandmother. Reverent to words coming from a mother, grandmother, sister or aunt figure that is near to our hearts. They provide proof that if we do not take control and responsibility for our own lives, then it would ultimately be fatal to our future selves.
“That is my greatest fear
That if, if I lost control
Or did not have control, things would just you know
I, it would be fatal”
CTRL opens with “Supermodel”, an intimate peak into a past break up and rebound personally experienced by Rowe. She charges us with thoughts we have all pondered on when breaking up due to our own insecurity, or our own fears of inadequacy due to a partner’s disloyalty in a relationship.. Rowe exclaims that she feeds off of the attention received in the relationship. Seeking to be his “supermodel” purely because being alone is uncomfortable, perhaps even frightening.
“I could be your supermodel
If you believe
If you see it in me…
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”
“Love Galore” explores navigating the search for love among a plethora of men who aren’t in the mindset to indulge in a committed relationship or who are serial daters. It capitalizes on the excitement felt in discovering a new potential match made in heaven, as well as the realization that he isn’t ever going to be invested in the situationship, even if you are. Instead, You may find yourself wanting love but dating for fun after this realization..
“Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me?
Why you bother me when you know you got a woman?…
You’ll do whatever I want
Get whatever I want
Get whatever I need”
“Should’ve never gave you my number
I did it with you
Should’ve never let you hit it
I split it with you”
“Doves in the Wind”, featuring fan favorite Kendrick Lamar, brutally describes the vast differences between a real man and a weak man as well as the overwhelming power that sex can have on men, the relationship in general, and society. Rowe also tells us that real men deserve more than just sex. He deserves what’s on the inside, all of her, wholeheartedly.
“Real (men) do not deserve (sex)
Meaning, it’s more you see right through walls
Ain’t talking about (sex)
Meaning, you deserve the whole box of chocolates”
“(Boys) lose they mind for it, wine for it, dine for it
Spend time for it, see no color line for it…
Good (sex) is rather dangerous…
(Sex) is so undefeated, let’s amen to that”
How do you explain staying in a relationship just to boost your own confidence? How can you explain recognizing feelings of love when you are together, only to question the motives of the relationship when you two are a part? Yet, you find yourself staying to validate your own views on yourself and love. Ultimately, you want to prove to yourself that you are capable of even being loved. SZA mastered doing just so in “Drew Barrymore”, an ode to every girl who felt like an oddball in a group of similar looking women.
“I get so lonely, I forget what I’m worth
We get so lonely, we pretend that this works
I’m so ashamed of myself think I need therapy”
“Do you really wanna love me down like you say you do?
Give it to me like you say you do?
Cause it’s hard enough you got to treat me like this
Lonely enough to let you treat me like this”
The rhythm oozes in slowly on the ultimate side-chick track. “The Weekend” speaks to the inner side-chick that lives within all of us on top of a ride through the 90’s, reminiscent to Xscape and En Vogue. Solana speaks about shamelessness that you feel about dating a man that you know is obviously dating multiple women at the same time. Rowe claims her territory as being the weekend bae, then craving more and more time than just the weekend. As long as he is there for her, spending time with her all is good in the world, no one else matters.
“You say you got a girl
You now you want me
The feeling is reckless
Of knowing it’s selfish
Knowing I’m desperate”
“You take Wednesday, Thursday
Then just send him my way… I’ll be at your door
Ready to take her place
Ready to give you
What you’ve been missing on weekdays
What you’ve been waiting for”
Solana testifies to the pure euphoria of finding someone who loves you for all of you on top of the whimsical, fairy tale-esque melodies in “Garden”. She speaks to the feeling of someone knowing your flaws, your sins, and darkest securities and decides to love you despite them. In “Garden”, Rowe is praising her partner and recognizing him for truly giving unconditional love. She capitalizes on a feeling that we all desire, crave, and long for, if not from a significant other, from your closest friends that see the true you, the unashamed part of you. They love you by letting you know that the real you is the best you.
“Need you for the old me
Need you for my sanity
Need you to remind me where I come from
Can you remind me of my gravity? …”
“I need your support now…
Can you hold me down when nobody’s around us
Open your heart up…
Oh I believe you when you say it like dat
You must really love me”
The best form of love is learning to love someone despite their pitfalls, through their lows, then back up again to their heights. “Pretty Little Birds” is like watching a loved one experiencing immense pain and suffering, making mistakes then rebounding. It becomes your job, your sole purpose, to love them through it. SZA harmonizes about learning to love a person back to redemption. Learn to pray for that person while watching them run through traffic. You can’t stand watching them torment themselves. You want to be their refuge, their place of comfort. Isaiah Rashad responds as the lover after the world has thrown bombs in their direction.
“You are but a phoenix among feathers
You’re broken by the waves among the sea
They’ll let you die , they’ll let you wash away
But you swim as well as you fly”
“You’ve hit the window a few times…
You still ain’t scared of no heights
When the spiral down feels as good as the flight”
“Lately, I feel like I’m robbin’ myself…
But my wings don’t spread like they used to
But I wanna fly with you”
A person’s 20s can be a place of fear, self-revelations, growth, fighting to realize what’s real, a period of inspiration and pain. Solana masterfully captures the essence of mixed emotions, the highs and lows that accompany being a 20 something. “20 Something” successfully grapples with the growing pains of such a tumultuous era. From an excruciating separation with a lover, to losing friends, and the overwhelming expectations of a person growing into themselves, Rowe still recognizes that this decade is one of the best times of life.
“20 somethings, all alone still
Not a thing in my name
Ain’t got nothing, runnin’ from love
Only know fear…
But God bless these 20 somethings
Hopin’ my 20 somethings don’t end
Hopin’ to keep the rest of my friends
Prayin’ the 20 somethings don’t kill me”
What is your favorite song and lyric from CTRL? Let us know!