SZA’s 2017 Top Dawg Entertainment release of her debut album, CTRL, shifted the foreground of contemporary R&B and remains in the lexicon of classic albums that withstands the test of time and context. No matter where you are in life, hearing SZA’s late grandmother, Norma, utter the words, “Also you black heffa, yeah you, you stand your ground/ ‘Cause I feel the same way/ If you don’t like me, you don’t have to fool with me,” cleanses the soul.
It is easy to say that music is a portal through time, but it is harder to look back on the kind of friend, lover, or person you were in the world when you were at your most unsure, scared, and afraid. Music can and often becomes our foreground into clarity. It gives us a sound for the unknown and reminds us that we are not alone in that abyss of longing. It is rare that artists in their prime strike at a project that breaks the ether and becomes the lifeline for a generation of young people. Solana Rowe—with the wise voices of her mother and grandma throughout did just that. SZA gave us sonics for falling into the mess of our lives with gratitude that you can only appreciate five years later.
To best honor CTRL as it is, we’ve ranked each track from worst to best. You will not agree with the said list and, respectfully, we get it…just join in the chaos and revisit the mess you were in 2017 like the rest of us.