SZA is on the cover of Fader’s first issue of 2018, with the magazine finding her still processing the fame and acclaim brought to her by last year’s Ctrl. The album was, of course, one of the true breakouts of the year both critically and commercially, shifting SZA from yet another promising talent awash in the major label system to one of the only talents to come through that system who is worth rooting for. Nonetheless, she still doesn’t quite believe it herself. Writes Fader’s Kara Brown:
Despite being seen as a brutally honest depiction of modern love, and sometimes whatever the opposite of love is — which, no, isn’t always hate — Ctrl wasn’t something she’d planned or crafted thematically. When it came time, she and her team surveyed the tracks and edited the album down to what we know now. “I just made a gang of songs over the course of four years. Heard ‘em all together and I was like, ‘Huh, alright.’”
I almost want to shake her because even if Ctrl isn’t a 10, the reception was enthusiastic and positive and the album clearly resonated, particularly with young women. For all the success and all the acclaim, there’s still a disconnect between how SZA sees herself and how the world sees her. “I didn’t even fuck with my own album, so I was so confused and almost, like, angry that everyone fucked with it so much,” she says. “It meant everything I felt about myself was wrong. And it was just like, If that’s not the truth, then what is the truth?”
Of the album’s most successful single, she recalls this telling interaction: “I think when ‘Love Galore’ went platinum, Donald [Glover] texted me like, ‘Do you still think it sucks?’ And I was like, ‘I dunno.’”
The idea of Ctrl being something of a happy accident has been attached to its narrative pretty much from the beginning. Talking to the Guardian over the summer, SZA said that her label TDE had to essentially “take my hard drive from me” in order to get her to stop recording music and begin forming the album:
“They just took my hard drive from me. That was all. I just kept fucking everything up. I just kept moving shit around. I was choosing from 150, 200 songs, so I’m just like, who knows what’s good any more?” She doesn’t know who took it, just that it was gone from the safe in the studio one day. So after all that, this Ctrl isn’t necessarily the Ctrl you would have put out? “No, absolutely not. Any longer and I probably wouldn’t … I’m also driving myself fucking crazy, so I don’t know. Give me another month and it would have been something completely different.”
Anyway, all’s well that ends in multiple Grammy nominations and gold and platinum records.