The moment that I heard “Drew Barrymore” on June 9, it instantly resonated with me. From the jump, SZA captured feelings that I had feeling my entire life and especially after my first year at Howard.
“You came with your new friends
And her mom jeans and her new Vans
And she’s perfect and I hate it…”
Those lines alone embodied the feelings of insecurity and not being good enough for anyone but it continued throughout the entire song. I was instantly in my feelings but also super happy that someone had finally put exactly what I felt into words and into a song. “Drew Barrymore” is the Ctrl version of “Cranes in the Sky” for me. I’ve never been the prettiest girl in the room or the prettiest one of my friends, I’ve always been the adorable and awkward one. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubts about being pretty. As a Leo, my confidence can go through the roof and there are times when I know that I am truly that bitch. However, throughout middle school, I struggled with constant thoughts of wondering why I wasn’t as pretty or as well-liked as my classmates. On top of that, I was one of the very few black girls so the insecurities of not being pretty enough were amplified. “Tell me if it’s warm enough here for ya.” As SZA gets into the second verse of the song she continues to touch on her insecurities, which mirror mine completely.
“I get so lonely, I forget what I’m worth
We get so lonely, we pretend that this works
I’m so ashamed of myself, think I need therapy
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
I’m sorry I’m not your baby mama
I’m sorry you got karma comin’ to you
Collect your soul, get it right”
Miss Rowe creates a powerful work of art with “Drew Barrymore” and telling not only her story but the story of thousands of girls out there feeling as if they aren’t warm enough for everyone around them (also shout out to my favorite rapper, Noname, for her verse on “Warm Enough” with Chance the Rapper and J. Cole). According to writer Natty Kasambala, SZA “dismantles the myth of the Black Superwoman– an infallible figure with infinite emotional resources to distribute and support any and everyone in need of it with zero room for error.” As a black woman, I can’t help but agree because the stereotype and expectation of being a strong black woman at all times is just not realistic. We aren’t expected to be vulnerable or emotional, but pillars of strength and someone’s rock. It is not our responsibility to be an emotional support system for everyone under the sun, and this includes black men. Black women are expected to be emotionally supportive of everyone even ourselves, how does this make sense?
My favorite lines come from the first verse of the song: “Somebody get the tacos, somebody spark the blunt/Let’s start the Narcos off at episode one.” These lines are my favorite simply because they mention a few of my go-to coping strategies when I’m feeling sad or insecure, food and Netflix. Now when it comes to the title of the song, it truly embodies the content of the song itself. Drew Barrymore is honestly one of my favorite actresses and one of my favorite white women because of both her talent and her story. SZA’s admiration of Drew Barrymore and her filmography inspired this song in so many ways. I read an article in the Huffington Post that states, “On one level, Barrymore represents nostalgia, happy endings, girls who are awkward and slightly out of place but still worthy of love. On another, she embodies a spirit of survival and self-transformation that many hope to emulate. Yes, she’s a white, able-bodied, conventionally beautiful cis-woman of privilege. But in the terrain of Hollywood, she always felt like something of a black sheep.”
Drew Barrymore was known throughout the 90s for playing characters that were outcasts in films like Never Been Kissed. However, behind the scenes, her life included several ups and downs that were watched by everyone, even before the birth of the Internet. Coming from a family full of actors, she was in the spotlight from 11 months old and by the age of 14, she was struggling with mental illness, drugs, and alcohol. This shifted her reputation quickly and this showed in her work. Playing sex workers and murders, which was completely different from her character in E.T. As Drew dawned on her 20s, her reputation shifted once again into playing lead roles in romantic comedies and family films. The beautiful thing about Barrymore’s story is her growth and that she never once put herself into one category. That and her genuineness are what makes her so lovable. She has acted in so many different and contrasting roles that she cannot be put into one category. Journalist Priscilla Frank describes Drew Barrymore as “resilient and exuberant, consistently metamorphosing hardship into energy, heartbreak into love, pain into art.”
Drew Barrymore’s story and SZA’ song both speak to the importance of self-definition and not letting anyone put you in a box. No one can define who you are but yourself and you are constantly growing each and every day so why bother. In an interview with Complex back in November 2016, SZA stated that she didn’t want to put any filters on herself anymore and “If you don’t define yourself, people do it for you. I don’t want that.” Like Drew Barrymore, she just wants to be free.
“How SZA’s ‘Drew Barrymore’ Told the Truth and Changed the Game” by Natty Kasambala
“In Praise of ‘Drew Barrymore,’ The SZA Song and the Woman Who Inspired It” by Priscilla Frank
“Why SZA’s Next Album May Be Her Last” by Karizza Sanchez