Musically, Beyonce has near universally been deemed the face of women’s empowerment and fierceness. Girls feel close to her music because it gives them confidence in themselves and makes them feel “flawless.” But now, with SZA’s Ctrl gaining some major attention, I believe a new mentor has stolen the microphone.
Artists such as Beyonce preach a hypersuccessful, hyperconfident lifestyle that at times can seem exhausting to maintain. While Lemonade did touch on the pain and insecurity women feel at the hands of an unfaithful husband, she still widely displays a persona who remains strong and fierce despite any trying situation she may go through. It makes girls feel like they can be strong and confident, but also kind of that they need to be.
In SZA’s music, though, she is being honest and saying that she doesn’t feel great all the time, she does have a lot of insecurities, and she sometimes isn’t a boss who has her life together. In a society that demands that all young adults have their life plan completely figured out, hearing someone as dope and successful as SZA spilling her raw emotions makes it feel okay to doubt yourself every once in a while. In songs like “20 Something,” the typical plight of a young adult trying to navigate the world is recounted, and she even prays for those in the same headspace as her. It’s so visceral and real that listeners connect to the music on such a deeply personal level.
She pours out her insecurities on the album, like her obvious hang-up on not having a big booty, her irrational jealousy of trendy, beautiful girls with the cool mom jeans, and her tendency to maybe invest in guys who aren’t shit. In the Beyonce narrative, woman are expected to be confident in their own skin despite the immense pressure they feel from the images and lives of celebrities and non-celebrities alike. Confidence is a great message to preach, but a little unrealistic when the female standards are so high. It’s only natural to see an unfavorable comparison at times. Despite all these insecurities, though, she doesn’t seem wrecked. The amazing thing that she does here is normalize feeling unsure of oneself; it is possible to still be a worthy, successful woman while simultaneously feeling small at times.
To me, this album represents so many feelings that I have felt throughout my whole life, and I’m sure women around the world feel the same. It’s not a superficial, motivational speaker type message where you are encouraged to feel like a bad bitch all the time, instead it reads more like a loving reminder from a friend that life happens different for everyone, and it’s okay to stumble and feel sad every once in a while. Inner strength and power can falter at times, and that’s fine. SZA tells us that she is still desirable, and so are we all, despite any emotional flaws we may experience.
Thank you SZA.