SZA uses different narratives throughout her music video, in some ways, contradicting what her lyrics are saying. I think her use of imagery plays a deeper role than what she is leading on. She is digging into her self-acceptance, using the reference of Adam and Eve, the sacred garden, to take her back to when everything was good in the world. Having a male role in her video doesn’t cause her to stray away from her main message of this song, as well as the main message of her whole album. In Garden (Say It Like Dat), SZA’s lyrics hit home with many of her fans. She touches on the issues with body positivity, the real-life relationships, and loving yourself before loving others. Some would say SZA’s use of Donald Glover has a meaning, especially since she debuted in his ‘This Is America’ music video, but I would say that they, as fellow artists, don’t see it as anything other than boosting one another’s prominence in the music industry. Many people begin thinking she is using him as her love interest, though they aren’t wrong, I think she thoughtfully put him in the video because she is comfortable around him and it only empowers the message of being comfortable in one’s own skin. Many fans have speculated that SZA’s song Garden is directed towards females wanting a man’s attention. I do not agree with this because I think it was about not wanting to conform to who others want her to be.
Before SZA’s rise to fame, she was not under contract with any record labels or companies. She solely rose to her potential on her own, living in the ‘unknown artists’ realm. SZA signed with Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013, shortly after her release of the albums ‘See. SZA. Run’ and ‘S’, becoming the only female to sign with this company. Being an artist originating from Missouri, most would expect her to produce more western style music, hitting close to the south as well, but SZA breaks those chains by being one of the main females leading the R&B world. Though she is from Missouri, SZA does not carry an accent through her work, giving no insight to where she might be from, or her family’s culture. Using her grandmother’s voice in her music video for Garden, many can infer that she has originated from somewhere besides the United States. Others see her songs as centered around love, but I believe that due to her being a Muslim-American, she faces many more issues and incorporates them into her work. Her songs in the album ‘CTRL’ challenges her audiences’ views by showing them that it is acceptable to be who you are, and not be who your significant other wants you to be. SZA is in the process of reshaping the R&B world by being involved with many influential people in the music industry.
Co-writing with Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Nicki Minaj as well as featuring Childish Gambino, Travis Scott and Maroon 5 in her own songs has boosted her audience majorly. Her song with Maroon 5 has reached the top 100 and stayed there consecutively for weeks.
Though this isn’t SZA’s first album, the songs on this track have become more popular than any of her others combined. The visuals in her music videos go beyond anything she has done before. Her producers create a vision of SZA through the ‘garden’ she is traveling in by using the beautiful natural light around her and shots through crystal lenses. SZA takes the audience on a journey through the island, meeting her soulmate, and eventually finding her way to her mother. Many people wouldn’t see her mother as having a symbolic role in this, but I see it as she has finally heeded the words her mother spoke. SZA spoke to an interviewer, revealing that she wanted to use her mother’s words because she has such a deep admiration for the wisdom her mother holds. The journey is releasing the thought of pleasing everyone and letting go of the burdens she holds on to of never being ‘good enough’. She takes her fans through the opposite side of love that is lesser broadcasted to the world. The ugly, truthful, painful side of loving someone and letting them see every flaw. This album breaks the ‘norms’ of typical R&B by her uses of the milestones in her own life to connect with others. She throws the ideas of a perfect world out and brings the raw side in. In every song on this album, SZA brings her own meanings, taking a different view of situations that would normally be blown out of proportion.
Analysis Some would say SZA already knows the tricks to self-love, but I disagree. As a woman, she has spent her whole life through heartbreak and learning how to live in a world of such hatred. The amount of pathos in her album ropes in the female fans. With a predominant female audience, SZA is able to connect with her fans in many ways. By showing her internal self-doubt in a relationship, the world sees a new side to R&B music. In interviews, SZA has stated that her clothes reflect what she is feeling, much like most females who put their emotions into everyday things. By bringing her mother into her album, she incorporates ethos. Being an older woman, facing many discriminations from being black and living in a Muslim house-hold, we can infer that SZA’s mother is very wise.
The vulnerability SZA brings by allowing her mother to talk to the audience as if she were their mentor creates a different view point on her album. As an audience, younger generations begin to follow the advice, taking more than just a good feeling from her songs. Because of the advice from her mother, her ability to be open-minded and not only overcome the obstacles but learn from them shows in her art.
SZA brings a whole new meaning to the word love in her album CTRL. By not only touching on relationships, but self-acceptance, she shows such candor in her music and in herself as an artist.
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