After four years of waiting, SZA's hotly anticipated debut album, Ctrl, has finally dropped. Ahead of its release, the Top Dawg Entertainment singer stopped by MTV News to discuss the milestone moment and project.
What does it feel like to release a body of work that people have been waiting years to hear? "Really scary," SZA told MTV News plainly. "It's weird. I haven't been working on the album for the entire four years. I've just been learning, growing, figuring out what I wanted, what music meant to me, if I really loved it enough to put up with it even when it pissed me off, when it got less fun." Luckily for all of us, she loved it enough to give us this album, and all that time and introspection paid off, not just because early reviews and fan reactions to Ctrl have been overwhelmingly positive but because, she explained, it allowed her to crystallize how she processes and expresses sound and to develop an artistic style all her own.
The album's lyrical content is deeply personal and slips effortlessly between bratty kiss-offs and meditative laments. SZA once described Ctrl as being "more honest" than previous projects, but during her conversation with MTV News, she recanted a bit. "You can't really talk about or define honesty," she said, adding, "I'm not thinking as much. I will say that. Because I think honesty usually comes from the moments that you're not thinking about."
All of SZA's contributions to the album, she revealed, were freestyled in some way, though she tried to come in with prerecorded phone notes or journals of ideas. For her, the moments that happen in the studio just seem to stick better. "Sometimes when I hear my words back I get very embarrassed of myself," she confessed, "because I'm like, 'Wow, that's so crazy,' or 'Why did you say that?' But it's like my subconscious talking to me."
Letting her subconscious do the talking, it seems, is what Ctrl is all about, and it's full of reflections on past relationships, '90s nostalgia, and internal struggles between confidence and insecurities. Watch the full MTV News interview with SZA for all of the above plus what it's like working with Travis Scott, why she'd do high school over again, and so much more.