A year ago today, SZA released her debut album Ctrl. I think I can speak on behalf of many others when I say that it's an album that was on rotation the whole summer of 2017.
And with banging visuals for fan favorites like "Doves In The Wind" and "Garden (Say It Like Dat)" being released left and right, the album's the gift that keeps giving. The impact that it made in R&B and music as a whole can't be overlooked nor denied.
What made SZA win over America's heart was how perfectly imperfect she was. There was no filter for her raw and vulnerable lyrics. From the harsh relatability of wanting to be validated by the man you love to being over men and their antics altogether, there were pieces of the twenty-something experience laced throughout the 14-track debut. Her own insecurities and aspirations transformed into anthems like "Normal Girl" and "20 Somethings." It's something that most music had been missing.
Through each track, SZA became our homegirl and confidant, offering lessons she learned from her mother and grandmother through her own experiences of how to conquer fear, and finally take back control of our lives despite its obstacles and setbacks.
Ctrl solidified SZA as a threat in the music industry and listeners were in unanimous agreement. Her fanbase skyrocketed, accolades piled in, and her singles climbed the charts to new heights. SZA's journey to becoming one of today's leading ladies of R&B is an inspiring and miraculous one. Given its cultural impact, some might not realize there was a time Ctrl was not going to ever see the light of day.
In October 2016, after frustration waiting for TDE's president Punch to schedule the release of her album, SZA told fans in a tweet that she was quitting music. Thankfully, that never happened, but prior to the album's release, anxiety of failing began to kick in and further delayed the process.
In an interview with The Guardian, she said:
"I freestyle everything, all the way down. And I listen back and think, what's sh*tty? And if something's too sh*tty and I can't put my finger on it, and I think, wow this sucks to me, then I get way frustrated, and usually scrap the song."
Her anxiety got to the point that TDE had to step in themselves and release the album. SZA had low expectations, but the outcome turned out to be a 180 flip. Ctrl went platinum along with its leading single "Love Galore," while "The Weekend" sits at 2x platinum and "Garden" and "Broken Clocks" reached Gold. It became one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of 2017 and she became the most nominated woman at the 2018 Grammy Awards with five nominations.
What SZA achieved in less than a year is almost unheard of in today's R&B. And although she is considered an alternative R&B artist, her success further pushed the narrative that it's possible for R&B to thrive in a rap and pop-dominated industry. And it's only the beginning for the 27-year-old phenom.
Let's reminisce in the comments, what's your favorite track from Ctrl and why?
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Ngozi Nwanji is from Silver Spring, MD and is currently a senior majoring in journalism at Temple University. Her passions include writing, Issa Rae, and music, especially 90s R&B.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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