SZA’s CTRL was held back again and again. It had been promised in 2015, then 2016, then early 2017. Halfway through, Solána Rowe fell out with her label, Top Dawg Entertainment, tweeting that she “actually quit.” Her anxiety dragged on, forcing her back into the studio to tinker with every track. It was a slog. If things hadn’t come together just right, CTRL might never have been released, Rowe might still have been writing for Rihanna and Beyoncé instead of becoming a fascinating breakout star.
But CTRL did come out, it’s Noisey’s Album of the Year, Rowe hasn’t quit the game (yet), and last night she was the musical guest on SNL. It was incredible. She performed “The Weekend,” backed by an all-female gospel choir and woodwind/horn section, then followed it up with “Love Galore,” tacking on an extra verse in Travis Scott’s absence.
Rowe’s voice wasn’t just flawless—sliding easily between a croak and a resonant falsetto in the breakdown of “The Weekend”—it was rich. She found new cracks in the transitions, tiny gaps to fly into with an extra blue note or a breath. She barely opened her eyes throughout.
Just watch both videos below. This was the best SNL performance from any artist since Chance the Rapper brought “Sunday Candy” to Studio 8H in 2015, two years ago almost to the day. Hopefully we'll look back on this performance in two years time, think about SZA's breakout year, and marvel at the superstar she's become. Hopefully she sticks around long enough.
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