It took me a while to get around to listening to SZA’s debut album, Ctrl. Despite tweets I’d read about how SZA was singing women’s lives and that Ctrl had to be listened to on repeat, I didn’t believe the hype until friends of mine appeared shocked and appalled that I hadn’t yet gotten with the program. So about a month ago, I got my ass in gear and listened to what I now believe is one of if not the best albums about self-worth and sex that I have ever heard.
SZA’s confessional style is what really got me hooked and why her lyrics resonate with so many people. The more I listened, the more I recognized the very real and complicated thoughts and feelings we all have about sex and dating. These are not songs about falling in love and everything working out. They’re about the games people play with each other, the struggle to get what you want, the things we’re willing to put up with, and the turmoil that those sacrifices cause within us.
Cultivate some appreciation for all that your booty has literally supported you through and you will find that it is a truly magnificent ass.
The vulnerability SZA reveals in songs like "Supermodel," "Drew Barrymore," "The Weekend," and "Garden (Say It Like Dat)" is uncanny. If you’ve ever felt body conscious, been a side chick who wanted more, or struggled with insecurity, then you will hear yourself in these lyrics. That’s what makes these songs, beyond the incredible production and infections beats and tunes, so potent.
As a sex and dating coach, I help people overcome really tough blocks in their romantic lives. Since Ctrl contains so much emotion that my clients report feeling, I want to address some of the points that SZA’s lyrics make and use them to help anyone who identifies with then to move forward and hopefully spring forth from the ashes of disappointment and loss into confidence and empowerment.
In "Supermodel," SZA explains that she stayed in a less-than-ideal relationship because of the sexual connection.
That's why I stayed with ya
The, the dick was too good
It made me feel good
For temporary love
You was a temporary lover
If you identify with this, you won’t be surprised to know that the response we have to sex and falling in love can be likened to a drug response. We get the high of the hormonal rush of connection and the withdrawal that comes with separation. Sociologist Helen Fisher addresses this phenomenon in her TED talk, The brain in love. She explains that we can actually get addicted to people who make us feel good. And what can make you feel better (and sometimes worse) than someone with whom you have incredible sexual chemistry? But the high cannot sustain itself, especially if someone isn’t invested in the relationship in the same way you are. It’s good to recognize when you have become sex/love-intoxicated and to identify it as a potential pattern of behavior that’s keeping you from the type of relationship you really want.
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SZA discusses her feelings of deep inadequacy in "Drew Barrymore."
You should never apologize for being exactly who you are, but you should definitely focus on ways to be the best you possible. When you compare yourself to other people, you give yourself two choices: feeling better or feeling worse. That’s it. There will always be someone out there who you can make yourself feel better than or worse than.
This isn’t helpful for developing a solid sense of self because it puts the focus on who you are in relation to other people. The true mark of self-acceptance is when you can view yourself realistically and fully, looking at the complexity of who you are and what you offer while acknowledging the strengths and the flaws that make you uniquely you. Therapy is a fantastic way to explore these things and to build yourself up while also recognizing where there is room to grow.
When being a side chick goes from cool to not-so-cool, SZA discusses her yearning to have more time and attention from her man in "The Weekend."
This is an opportunity to talk about what it would take to have everyone involved (your man, you, and her) on the same page. When you have a secret relationship, you are subject to the rules created by the person who has a primary partner. If you want more, you have to change the rules to fit everyone. If your partner is willing to disclose that he wants to be in a relationship with you and her, and they can get to a place as a couple where dialogue is open and transparent, it’s possible to expand your role in your man’s life. The key is open and honest communication about what could be a consensually non-monogamous relationship.
In "Garden (Say It Like Dat)," SZA reveals insecurity about the size of her booty and compares herself to other women.
I need your support now (now, now, now, now, now)
We all have complicated relationships with our bodies and particular features we’d like to change, but there is freedom when we accept the things we cannot change. I’d like to invite you to think about your relationship to your booty. If you could have a conversation with it, what would you say? Do you hate it, or is it more complicated than that?
Now I’d like you to think about all that your booty has done for you. Think about the hours you sat writing music or listening to tracks. Cultivate some appreciation for all that your booty has literally supported you through and you will find that it is a truly magnificent ass.
If you relate to Ctrl on a deep level, you are not alone. That’s because the feelings and situations that SZA so beautifully and bravely articulates throughout the album are universally human. All of us have felt or will feel insecure in relationships. We all struggle with comparing ourselves unnecessarily to other people and wanting from others what we should be giving more of to ourselves: attention, love, respect.
When we can be truly honest with ourselves about who we are (flaws and all) and still know that we are worthy of the kind of love that we want and really go for it, then we can all gain Ctrl.