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by SZA

Released June 9, 2017 via Top Dawg Entertainment / RCA Records

Reviewed June 8, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Broken Clocks (38%), Drew Barrymore (37%), Doves in the Wind (32%)

It’s very rare for an artist’s big label-debut to create such a concise and intimate experience quite like SZA’s Ctrl did in 2017. Her first record as a member of Top Dawg Entertainment is one that still remains at the top of the contemporary R&B landscape some five years later. What never ceases to amaze on Ctrl is SZA’s openness. As she fills the space at the forefront of countless beautiful soundscapes, her personal growing pains and self-reflection mitigate any artistic growing pains that could have arisen. This album feels entirely like SZA’s world, a world that any woman or anyone could relate to. It’s for that reason that so many people connected with Ctrl, because a lack of control affects us all at one time or another. Because sometimes, we use those flaws to define who we are. SZA’s work is almost comforting in the sense that everyone struggles with those labels we place upon ourselves. – Ben (Synth) (9/10)

Be it freeing or oppressive, the pursuit of control has been an extremely sought after and consequential force of human history. SZA, in her TDE debut, weighs in on her experiences with control in ways that register the temporary shrinkage, or permanent growth, she has endured as life changes. SZA’s prior project, Z, was a breakthrough and a cult success, which remains a remote prelude to the worldly success of Ctrl. Thanks to the support of so many talented musicians throughout the sphere of Top Dawg Entertainment, SZA’s range of singing, songwriting, and album conception bloomed before our very ears. This refinement process, along with relatability to the “20 Something” / “Normal Girl” (or our perceptions of what those things are), are the things that have made Ctrl so excellent and revisitable throughout these five years. – DeVán (8.5/10)

Alan: 9.2/10 | Pax: 9/10 | Victoria: 9/10 | Daniel: 8.6/10 | Ben (Synth): 8.5/10

DeVán: 8.5/10 | Dominick: 8.2/10 | Cam: 8/10 | Henny: 8/10 | Jacques: 8/10 | Jared: 7.5/10

Community Reviews:

Ctrl is a beautiful project. Although I can't relate to the themes presented and don't fully understand this album, I think it's great and takes a profound approach at things like maturing, love, loneliness, and the shit young women have to go through. Sonically, it is amazing as well. The slower tracks like “Supermodel,” “20 Something,” and “Normal Girl” are great. As are the stacked features from Isaiah, Travis, and Kendrick. The vocal performances are on point and tracks like “Drew Barrymore” and “Anything” are just special. Love this project and hope to fully understand it one day. – @coolerwiemrgn (10/10)

Ctrl is a phenomenal and dynamic debut album. It displays SZA’s growth between projects. And that’s what it’s all about. Credits to TDE for believing in SZA as an artist and for giving her all the tools that made this album. – @szaexplained (10/10)


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