By Alli Hayes
“Take the heads off my Barbie Dolls, toss em’ to the side.” Ambient lyrics of Solana Rowe aka SZA’s EP Z trails through an eighties montage, while it’s low-key groovy to listen to, it sounds but a dream compared to her highly achieved album, Ctrl. An upfront and clear parody confessing the twists and turns of surviving her twenties in love, in heartbreak, and in uncertain identity. It’s crazy to believe that this is her debut album.
When her album went live this past June, sprinkles of fangirls had been Instagramming Ctrl permanently tattooed on their wrists, regrammed through SZA’s feed to show her excitement for the support. It’s not really a shock to see young women banding together in an ode to the year’s freshest, most relatable tracks. Despite the angsty nature, it’s a direct message that has helped this blossoming artist find her sun.
In the past, she used a lot of reverb in the studio recordings. The clearcut voices were coming from feature big name rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Isaiah Rashad (signed to Top Dawg Entertainment along with SZA), and Chance The Rapper. This time around, SZA pipes up with them. “Doves in the Wind” really hits home, with a tone of telling her cheating ex-boyfriend really where to go and what she’s looking to “crack off that headboard, bust it wide open for the right one.”
As she explains in her Rolling Stone interview, hearing herself this clear this time around was something she had surprisingly never opened herself up to doing. It made her feel ashamed and insecure to hear the sounds of her past, as she felt she was truly lacking a voice. The game changer? Freestyle. She used a rapper’s mic for the first time. Something that we hear in Ctrl so easily took time to foster, the raw emotion and real talk scared the shit out of her to release.
In her Vogue June interview, she describes the lack of musical aspirations around, she had in between trying out three different colleges and working as a bartender in a strip club only a few years ago. Her brother encouraged her to sing some hooks on his projects, and something lit up inside her. During that Vogue interview, SZA popped into a metaphysical store in search for crystals. The shop employee gave her an assured energy reading that she has some serious responsibility on this earth to empower women.
Through this empowerment has come a lot of anxiety. SZA has had to really delve into her emotive power only for a moment, but living that feeling over and over again, with declarative outside inspiration is not easy to pinpoint. Everything from Nirvana to Wu-Tang to Alabama Shakes and Tame Impala, we hear and anticipate the peppering of a new world for SZA and her stage.
SZA performs at the Commodore Ballroom on Thursday, September 14. Doors at 8.
Alli is a wildcard. Faux fur is her wingman. She is constantly moved by art, cool parties, and independent film, and continues to create her own projects. She wishes her photographic memory did her Instagram more justice. Check out her blog at thewildcardwins.com.