Touring off the back of her critically acclaimed debut CTRL, SZA’s sold out show at the Logan Campbell Centre was a masterclass in modern R’n’B and Hip Hop.
CTRL immediately garnered acclaim for its fearless take on contemporary feminine self-expression and sexuality. It’s a record that discusses sexual freedom while still having your hunger for emotional intimacy taken seriously. In a genre where the easy answer to any admission of romantic love is to “love yourself’ CTRL actually grapples with the heart breaking process of actually attempting it and failing repeatedly.
It’s unfortunate that we still live in a society where a woman’s worth is still defined by male attention, because it makes the lack of a romantic partner hard to replace with self-esteem. For too long, the idea that a woman who struggles to be in romantic relationship is inherently flawed and the onus is on women to contort themselves to male expectations until one stuck around. SZA unrepentantly flips this thinking, eviscerating the men who have failed her instead of steeping in self-blame.
Although her fan base has swelled in a few short months, SZA is still technically an indie artist. This gives her a unique opportunity to air her dirty laundry- bloody underwear, panties that give you an immediate confidence boost, bras you can’t really wash because their half wire, half lace and you can’t get the smell of sex out no matter how hard you try- and if that makes you uncomfortable, don’t listen to CTRL because it speaks up for the modern woman.
This level of articulate honesty makes CTRL a rare record, an immediate classic not unlike TLC’s CrazySexyCool and a real joy to watch live.
It was a relief to hear that there is little difference between SZA’s vocals in studio and on-stage. Backed by a three piece band, her honeyed voice drew obvious comparisons to Frank Ocean and Mary J Blige. Dressed in a wonderfully 90s combination of baggy satin pants with red accents and a crop top, her stage presence was natural and brightly energetic, swaggering and vulnerable allowing for an immediate connection with her audience.
The crowd, diverse but predominantly female, drowned out her vocals to opener Supermodel and rarely let up the entire set. The slinky Drew Barrymore was a particular highlight as it saw singer and audience belt out the lines “I’m sorry I’m not more attractive/I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike/I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night” in a moment that crackled with authenticity and catharsis. Despite the size of the Logan Campbell Centre it felt like we were back in our bedrooms dancing in front of the mirror with our best mates.
The layering of her set list allowed for each song to stand on its own two feet, but she was short changed by technical issues that had nothing to do with her – bad mixing and wonky earpieces were abound to a distraction. It was understandable, albeit disappointing.
As she danced and twirled around, the Logan Campbell Centre seemed too small to contain her talent.