Ciara • Ciara • Epic • US Release Date: July 09, 2013
CiCi aka Ciara hasn’t had good fortunes as of late commercially speaking. Sure, she’s “super turnt up” over her romance with Future and all, but those passionate kisses don’t atone for her last couple of unspectacularly selling albums. We were all feeling Ci back in 2004 when she was teasing us with her “Goodies”, had us doing the “1,2 Step”, and singing “Oh” (Goodies).
Ciara remained in good standing with 2006 album Ciara: The Evolution, which debuted at number one and spawned hit singles in “Promise”, “Get Up” and “Like A Boy”. The singles didn’t reach the same elite status mind you, but she still did her thing.
Then, the paint began to peel. 2009 effort Fantasy Ride saw a huge sales erosion (from 338,000 to 81,000) and single “Love Sex Magic” was the only radio hit (no. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100). Ciara would try to regain her swagger on 2011’s Basic Instinct – solid album mind you – but it had the misfortune of debuting during a stacked December, peaking at a tepid no. 44. Ew girl…
So… Ciara is sort of Ciara’s second comeback about, right? Like the former Basic Instinct, it is a solid showing. As positive as that is, Ciara’s success is not going to based on its quality, but rather can it make Ciara a prominent, commercially lucrative star once more. While I’m pulling for Ci, I just don’t think enough promotion has been put into this album to make it a hit. If this is her ‘make or break’ moment where major label and its perks go, I’m a bit concerned. But the album is enjoyable… not to make it sound like an afterthought!
“I’m Out” opens the effort spiritedly with Ciara doing her normal hip-hop savvy vocalizing giving listeners the first taste of the chorus (“Ladies it’s your song, so as soon as this come on / you should get out on the floor, go and get your sexy on…”). Nicki Minaj makes her first of two album appearances, serving up a brash rap verse that’s very characteristic – take that how you want to. Ciara takes over, delivering a solid ‘girls night out’ anthem. It’s not quite the ‘second coming’ or nothing, but it sets the tone.
“Sophomore” is arguably more interesting, and definitely more stimulating. “I ain’t no amateur / baby I know how to handle ya / If you ready for this ride, get your saddle up / I need a boy with some stamina…” Yeah, that’s hot! What’s most amazing about “Sophomore” is that Ciara flexes her muscles without breaking a sweat. Sure she’s feisty, but coupled with the subtle but solid production, “Sophomore” packs a punch without overdoing anything.
Many guys would die to be invited to Ciara’s “Body Party”, but as she so memorably states, “…nobody’s invited but you, baby…” “Body Party” couldn’t quite be called subtle, but Ci Ci manages to make sensual escapades semi-classy, if there’s such a thing. But it hard to subdue innuendo, right?
“Keep on Lookin’” certainly isn’t short of feistiness as Ciara is one confident woman. “Boys lookin’, size me up / damn, they think I’m gorgeous…” (true) and “I done told you haters to f*ck off / but I’m still such a lady…” (debatable?). Even if she’s extremely self-assured, she does it well here, particularly on the gimmicky, but addictive hook: “Keep on lookin’, keep on lookin on with your lookin’ ass / keep on lookin’ boy, what I got baby you can’t have…”
She comes down in quality ever so slightly on “Read My Lips”, but she still wants to ‘do the do’ if you catch my drift (“Boy I got the sugar that can make you fall down”). The production is interesting and pleasant, though nothing to crazy other than some hyper-rhythmic drum runs adorning the ends of the phrases.
“Where You Go” featuring Future is less alluring. Sure, it’s sort of modern in sound, but it lacks that gutsy punch in regards to both songwriting and even production. I could’ve used another pad synth to add more depth to the production or even better yet a switch-up to eliminate some of the sameness as the cut progresses. Win some, lose some as they say.
Ciara’s adoration for her boo is better showcased on “Super Turnt Up”, one of the best cuts of the effort. “That’s my baby / he be puttin’ it down / I love my baby / we go round and round,” she sings on hook, before confirming “You know that I / I’m super turnt up / boy your love got me super turnt up…” Safe to say she’s into Future? Rhetorical. He makes her “…feel like a woman / [she] need to spend all the time…”
Moving on, in “DUI” it’s not the alcohol that’s screwing up Rihanna’s driving or stability, it’s her boo: “It’s funny I ain’t even drink sh*t and I’m so intoxicated / I think I’m over my limit when you near me…” Deep love gets a bit freaky when Ci insists “…put them handcuffs on me / keep talking to me dirty / I’mma put it on cruise control as I let and go”. And guess who Ciara sounds like here? Kelly Rowland.
“Livin’ It Up” is a happy joint and contrasts her infatuations from the preceding cuts. Nicki Minaj makes her second appearance, but does beg the question should she have really appeared twice on an album so skinny at just ten tracks? We all know Ms. Minaj went ‘H.A.M.’ on her verse on Kanye West’s “Monster”, but she continues to remind us (“Cause this one is for thegirls making progress / see I’m a monster, no I’m not a Lochness…” Whatever.
Cici closes in pop fashion with “Overdose”. It’s not necessarily my ‘cup of tea’ as far as my favorite kind of a song, but Ciara is well suited to it and it’s enjoyable. But she must have some kinda man for sure, since and I quote “you’re like a hurricane inside my veins / but I like it babe, so bring on the break…”
Verdict? Ciara is a solid album. I like tighter albums as long as there is enough ‘meat’ to feed on without having to fight with filler, etc. Personally, I do believe Ciara has a good balance here and does well for herself to eschew overstuffing. That said and as aforementioned, I’m just not sure if there is enough here to reinstate Ciara as a top echelon pop-leaning contemporary R&B artist. But, she did bring some enjoyable material on her fifth album. Good, not perfect.
Favorites: “Sophomore,” “Body Party,” “Keep On Lookin’,” “Super Turnt Up”