R&B singer SZA released a video this week for “Drew Barrymore,” from top-shelf new album Ctrl. It features none other than its namesake, Drew Barrymore.
The Top Dawg Entertainment artist released the song back in January as a single. Six months later SZA’s new album is by far one of the best R&B projects to come out in 2017, and “Drew Barrymore” sets up listeners for its overarching themes—exploring self-worth, womanhood, and transformation in the face of struggle.
SZA spends most of the video hanging out with her gang, going through the motions at a variety of parties or outside in the cold wearing fashionable layers. As she sings you can see the warm air coming out of her mouth, which makes the chorus feel more literal as she sings: “Is it warm enough for ya outside baby? Is it warm enough for ya inside me?”
As SZA casually sings, the real-life Barrymore passes by and the two exchange a brief but intimate moment of understanding glances and smiles. It’s the kind of moment many of us are familiar with: the solidarity of women trying to balance giving ourselves to others without giving too much.
There’s no mention of Barrymore in the song, but as the star of Never Been Kissed, it’s probable that SZA chose the title because of Barrymore’s famous image as young and insecure.
On the song and record, the singer explores her identity as a balance of being enough for herself and enough for everyone else. Via lines like “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,” we hear SZA’s struggle with trying to reconcile the reasons why her relationship is fading, and how those ideas reflect on her own self-worth. The song is heartbreakingly self-aware about the ways women qualify their capacity to be loved based on external factors.
But the song and video are not just a depiction of a girl letting herself stew in the doubt of crumbling relationships. As SZA sits naked in a laundromat we get a sense that there is some defiance in her tone and presentation. Especially as a woman who has been called fat by irrelevant men.
The party ends and afterward SZA and friends sit on a rooftop as the sun rises. Young, insecure Drew Barrymore does grow up, and, eventually, so do we.
H/T A.V. Club