How SZA’s Album “Ctrl” Defies Stereotypes Against Black Women in the Music Industry

This summer was the fifth anniversary of “Ctrl,” the groundbreaking album released by famous rhythms and blues singer SZA. With the album, SZA defied stereotypes regarding Black artists in the music industry and exceeded expectations when everyone expected her not to.

“Black women are only allowed to be one thing: sexualized or heartbroken or empowering … Why can’t we be perceived as multidimensional?” declared British online magazine “gal-dem.”

SZA displays this multidimensionality through “Ctrl,” using innovative lyrics and experimental production to show listeners that being a Black woman is not a defining trait.

Frequently, young Black women are hypersexualized. With songs like “The Weekend,” SZA shines a light on this. Starting with the lyric, “The feeling’ is reckless of knowin’ it’s selfish,” while also building up to the confession-like lyric, “Give me what I want,” further explores this idea. Another song, “Normal Girl,” highlights the unattainable standards of what a Black woman must be. The transition from “I wish I was a normal girl” to “I’ll never be” acknowledges that this sense of being normal does not exist and confronts the “normal girl” stereotype often used to degrade Black women.

“Ctrl” experiments with R&B pop and lo-fi, adding unique rhythms that match with each unique song. For example, in her song “Broken Clocks,” a clock-like beat is played in the background; times and dates such as “Got a shift at 10 a.m” are cleverly used to reflect this.

This album explores music in an innovative way. The pure emotion conveyed through lyrics showcases her immense talent.