'CTRL' vs 'SOS': Which is the Superior Album?
By Cihara Mathieu '26
Source for photo above and below: Faith Nguyen
Have you found yourself performing your daily activities such as scrolling through social media, walking your dog, or doing your schoolwork while an extremely catchy song that’s about getting revenge on your ex is stuck in your head? If you say you haven’t done that, it’s either you haven’t heard of the worldwide famous singer SZA or you just haven’t opened TikTok in a hot minute.
Solana Imani Rowe, professionally known as SZA, has dominated social media and the music charts over the past couple years. She has collaborated with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Doja Cat, Lizzo, Phoebe Bridgers, and even Marvel Studios for 2018’s Black Panther soundtrack. Recently, SZA was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with the catchy, yet antagonizing “Kill Bill”—it is hard to believe that an artist this successful has only two albums out.
Her debut album "CTRL" jumpstarted her career greatly and took over the R&B genre and eventually the music industry by storm. Her recent album "SOS" earned her countless records and imprinted her place in pop culture. Both are undoubtedly great albums, each having their own standouts and viral hits.
But, when listening to both of these records you can’t help but ask yourself the question: Which one of these albums is better? "CTRL" or "SOS"?
No doubt, for the average SZA fan, it is a difficult question to answer, and it takes a good amount of time to decide which one is “better” than the other. But for people like me, aka people who were in the 0.1% of SZA listeners for their 2022 Spotify Wrapped, it is a question that requires more analyzing before settling on a definite answer.
Arguably," CTRL" is one of the best debut albums from a musician in recent years. It is an album about SZA having complete control of her own life as a woman in her 20s with sub-themes of modern romance, insecurity, and eventual self-love. When asked about the theme of the album on The Breakfast Club SZA stated, “'CTRL' is a concept. I’ve lacked control my whole life and I think I’ve craved it my whole life.” It is mixed with sounds of pop, RNB, indie, soul, electronic and hip hop—making the album well-rounded and introducing SZA as a versatile artist.
The album was released on June 9, 2017, and was immediately met with widespread acclaim from critics and the general public. The album debuted at #3 on the US Billboard 200 and sold 60,000 album units in its first week. Clearly, these are insane accomplishments for a debut album. "CTRL" contained 14 tracks and featured five singles: “Drew Barrymore”, “The Weekend”, “Love Galore”, “Garden (Say It Like Dat)”, and “Broken Clocks”, the latter being the most recognizable single from the album.
After "CTRL", SZA went on an extremely long break from releasing an album—teasing fans and making us wait for 5 years for a new album. This new album is known as "SOS" and is the breakout album of 2022, despite being released in the last month of the year. In my eyes, the album was worth the wait and the hype that SZA built around it made the release even more special.
"SOS" is an album consisting of 23 tracks and features 4 singles: "Good Days", "Shirt", "I Hate U", and "Kill Bill", the latter being the most recognizable from the album. Although SZA was already considered a versatile artist, "SOS" solidified that title. It is still an RNB & hip-hop dominated record but with SZA now heavily experimenting in “surf rock” and “grunge” elements. The album carries on themes from "CTRL" like toxic relationships but introduces the idea of SZA finally letting go of that part of her life and learning self respect. One second, the album can make you feel confident in your skin and then the next you are sobbing into your pillow. Clearly, the best of both worlds.
In its first two weeks of release, "SOS" became the first album from a Black female artist to top the Billboard 200 Chart since Beyoncé’s “Beyoncé” dropped in 2013. She has beaten multiple other records held by legends such as Janet Jackson and Usher—an extremely admirable feat.