From the videos that enthralled us to the memes we had to save to our phones, 2017 has been a hugely creative year. Today, deputy editor Kenrya Rankin reflects on the power of SZA’s “Ctrl” album.
There is no logical reason why SZA’s “Ctrl” is my favorite album of the year. I long ago moved beyond the days of being okay with only seeing “my man” on the weekends, I slashed my friend circle to only include people whose motives I don’t have to second guess, and I haven’t seen 20-something in a smooth six years. But who said music—or life—was logical?
Certainly not anyone who has ever found themselves in a relationship that did more harm to their psyche than good, or worked through body issues under the gaze of a man who would rather fuck a random than talk to you, or struggled with figuring out what—and whom—they can and cannot control.
But I resisted downloading Solána Rowe’s 14-track album for months, ’cause logic. Sure “The Weekend” is a bop, but even as I sang along I’d find myself judging “these kids today” for accepting less than they deserve. But here is the thing: One of the many, many lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way is that it takes reserves of self awareness and confidence and bravery and maturity to dive into the accumulated trauma of your past—and the things it led you to accept—and create art that helps other people examine their own shit.
Listening to the perfectly named “Ctrl” feels like a glitch in the Matrix where I get to chop it up with my younger Black girl self and provide her with living proof that she will survive even the roughest of days. Each listen reveals another insight that I know I didn’t have in the years immediately following undergrad. On “Supermodel,” I saw my old “serial monogamous” cover blown: “Why I can’t stay alone just by myself? / Wish I was comfortable just with myself.” I loved “Drew Barrymore” from the opening notes, and by the time the second verse started, I realized I was hearing my 40-something homegirl’s words in Sza’s mouth: “I get so lonely, I forget what I’m worth / We get so lonely, we pretend that this works.”
Black women are rarely afforded the privilege to be anything other than strong, and it’s exhausting to carry that expectation around day and night. But listening to “Ctrl” feels like I get to put down that burden for 49 whole minutes and reflect on how far I’ve come. On this album, SZA shows us that vulnerability is an appreciating asset. And, for that, she wins.
More of Kenrya’s favorites:
TV Show: “Mr. Robot”
Movie: “Get Out”
Song: “The Weekend,” by Sza
Book: “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life,” by Samantha Irby
Podcast: “The Read”
Hashtag/Social Media Campaign: #ImpeachTrump
Artist/Creator: Ava DuVernay
Music Video: “Element,” by Kendrick Lamar