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NPR Arts & Life

Stream SZA's Clear-Eyed Debut Album, 'CTRL'

SZA on the cover of<em> CTRL</em>.
SZA on the cover of<em> CTRL</em>.

SZA's CTRL is here, a resolutely confident and skillful R&B album that explores the notions of control and honesty, with thoughtful features from Travis Scott ("Love Galore"), Kendrick Lamar ("Doves In The Wind") and Isaiah Rashad ("Pretty Little Birds"). And it almost didn't happen.

For a while there, it seemed like SZA had given up, to the point of threatening to quit music. Whatever frustrations the R&B singer's had with Top Dawg Entertainment around the album's release, or the process of making music, or personally, the heartache is heard in clear-eyed production and lyrical candor.

"I can't hide in my music anymore," SZA told Complex in November, way before the album release date pushbacks began. Where 2014's Z EP overpowered SZA with reverb and murky sounds — which, it should be said, was R&B's default then — CTRL is wide open, almost sleek in its pop flavors, heard in the watery grunge of "Drew Barrymore" and sparkling '80s guitar of "Prom." We're looking forward to spending way more time with CTRL, but for now, we can all take a listen.

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