SZA, ‘CTRL’ and the ‘Illusion of Control’

Solána Rowe, better know as SZA, released her long awaited debut last Friday. With a major label backing from RCA, the album CTRL marks the biggest moment of her career so far. The 14-track album is filled with multiple layers and themes. @Mdaixo__ gives us her take on CTRL and delves deeper, paying closer attention to the album title and reoccurring themes of the ‘illusion of control’.


The illusion of control can be defined as ‘the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to ‘control’ events and outcomes.  As SZA puts it herself in a recent interview on Everyday Struggle  “Control is a concept, you think about getting away from analog, control is an illusion, you try and force it.”

There are multiple layers to ‘Illusory Control’ which is the main theme of this album hence why it being titled called ‘ctrl’ (control key on a keyboard).

The first layer, to begin with, is the mind. The ‘Illusory Control’ has a lot to do with our ‘fears’. The main theme of the album is love which interlinks with hate, heartbreak, revenge and self-perception.  The illusion of control causes people to spend a lot of time creating techniques and strategies to prevent those ‘fears’ from manifesting in their lives. ‘Love’ can be defined as ‘a feeling of deep affection’, ‘an intense attachment to someone or something’. SZA has learnt from past experiences and is now able to ‘love’ and ‘provide’ for herself. There are a lot of songs throughout the album such as ‘Supermodel‘, ‘Garden (Say It Like Dat)’, ‘Drew Barrymore‘, ‘Prom‘ and ‘Normal Girl‘ which associate with ‘fear’. SZA’s fears include her insecurities and her place in such experiences. This highlights her ‘unconscious control mechanism’ which is often to find ways to not make ‘love’ a concern.

The second known layer of the ‘Illusory Control’ is the Ego, this reveals the ego’s use of control. The theory discusses how ego does a lot of work through the MIND to control everything.  SZA highlights how the ‘concept of control’ had influenced her insecurities (this is mentioned in Drew Barrymore and Prom ), where she would want to look a certain way so that she can get a certain type of social approval.

Another layer of the ‘Illusory Control’ is the heart. This layer shows the extent that we go to control our ‘hearts’ so that we don’t end up in situations where we feel uncomfortable or in our ‘fears’. SZA shows within this layer that she has been running from discomfort and fear from love, but throughout the album it takes us right back into SZA’s mindset of growth and control (Track: ’20 something’).

Throughout the album SZA paints different ways she has engaged with control. The album is very personal and almost ‘journal-like’. This was most effective with the use of her family, grandma and mothers words of encouragement heard throughout the album. SZA starts small, throughout, documenting a small area in her love life that she is trying to control.

Words by @Mdaixo__ 

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