Summer in California is generally known for a few things. It has your Project X themed parties, locations ranging from the warehouse to nightclubs and swimming pools; the fiestas get creative. Then, it sees this sudden increase in food supply. Summer foods – emphasis on summer because the good food seems to slowly but surely disappear around the season’s final days – are the greatest. Stayers get to experience endless and endless cultivation of food trucks and the supply just seems to never reach any kind of level of depletion. Mind capacities, bodily expansions, and soul experiences seem to exceed an all time high during the summer. However, I’ve failed to mention the most important of a California Summer’s theme. Love.

Love is one of California’s sweetest summer tithes and it [love] seems to be a bug that over half of the nation communicates. Only to inform you however, summer loves have a reputation to be just that, a summer love. Those that tend to take off past the end of the summer find themselves crashing come fall. For a lot of us who partake in this kind of contagious affair, we typically also acquire something either intangible or tangible to equate our love story to. These sorts of distinguished relatives vary, for love can find itself caught in several things. It finds itself sitting on that bench in the park you used to escape to ‘round midnight with your lover. It is in the air’s aroma. It even finds itself lurking on the PCH, remembering drives up the coast just because. The most relevant and most infectious, however, is in the music. Sound waves are moods of their own. When we listen, we feel. Over the last two years, just about each summer has used several albums and songs to express the tone of the season. PartyNextDoor’s single “East Liberty” is on the list as well as Drake’s Views and we could also say Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book. This fine 2017 California Summer would have to be equated to SZA’s Ctrl. It is a 49 minute love story depictive of a total roller coaster, from beginning to end. SZA makes sure to present to you in chronological order the evolution of not only the love story, but also, its ending. Listen as she meshes it all incredibly well, emphasizing the ups and downs, the hot and cold of love’s everything.

Smooth as marble, rough as sandpaper. SZA highlights the simple fact that there just is no in between or gray area when it comes to intimacy. Either it is or it ain’t. The good times are still to be debated on for holding the title of “good” because of how she feels while she is in them – depressed and nostalgic. The bad times are still to be debated upon for holding the title of “bad” because even in them, she is faithful to the idea of a happy ending, she anticipates it. But, when will it end? Because even when it does end, it never ends. There are still loose ends, open doors and windows with curtains that are tied to the side awaiting your companion’s view of the light you left on just for them. So, when will it end? She makes it to an understanding that she must choose.

The album progresses and with the progression of it comes the evolution and change in the songstress’s absolute feelings. SZA begins to allow herself to get comfortable with the idea of letting the relationship go wherever the wind takes it saying, “…down for the ride, you can take me anywhere.” She is still clenching onto her dying desire for it to work, feigning for his recognition and companionship. Clinging to his potential, something a handful of listeners can agree to being guilty of, making this project all the more relatable.

Towards the finale of the artist’s latest work comes the finale of the album’s love  jones. SZA finds herself in a state of reflection, having epiphanies and letting go of her once, denial transforming it into acceptance. “Wavy”, track eleven, serves as her surrender’s interlude. She adds a hint of remembrance to the track inclusive of conscious longing. She reminds herself of the smiles they would exchange, but adds a self-note: they surfaced only to mask the pain and frustrations they held towards one another. SZA begins to stand tall in the woman this experience morphs her into. She confesses her acknowledgement of her sense of self – the normal girl which she is not and never will be. She understands that this time next year she’ll remember no pain, expressed in “Normal Girl”, and that although he’ll recognize it too late, she will be fine because she is her own kind of normal. Normal enough.

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