CiCi Still the Queen of Crunk&B
Ciara’s self-titled fifth album is a projection of her self-actualization. Ciara first introduced herself to the music scene in 2003 — just after graduating high school — with her dirty south flavor and distinct femininity. Like Ashanti, the early 2000s went well for CiCi, but unfortunately for young artists in the music scene, it was her raw youth and smooth vibe her fans fell in love with.
Since “Goodies,” Ciara’s debut R&B album, most of Ciara’s music has been ideally creative but poorly executed and under-performed. “Basic Instinct” (2008) was her artisan rebellious stage, where she fought back against the public’s refusal to let go of the teen queen of Crunk&B image. She experimented with pop fusion techniques but strayed too far from her mastered style. The experimentation was not forgiven, and no one talked about “Basic Instinct,” except for one Verizon cell phone commercial.
“Ciara” shows a more evolved vocalist who is still connected to her dirty south roots with an unapologetic and bravely feminine gusto. As someone whose earliest CD purchases were “Goodies” and Usher’s “Confessions,” it was initially difficult to relinquish an expectation of the R&B I wanted to hear. This is not that R&B, and Ciara now has a very different sound than what most of the R&B female artists have produced within the last six years. After 10 years and four albums, these 10 tracks are what she considers pure Ciara essence, born of her name and of herself; or more so the confession of herself unto us.
Tracks like “DUI” let loose her sultry tongue and unlock the effect of the R&B beat on the head-nod. She is confident and sexual, but there is no tension in her flow, which makes her seduction effortless. “Body Party,” produced by Jasper Cameron, who also produced Lloyd’s equally soothing single “You,” is another sensual experience between Ciara and us.
“Keep On Lookin” highlights her playful, rugged charm which is offset only by forced-sounding reggae vocals and a drum beat following a UGK style (kings of the dirty south shoulder-lean) bass drop. No female MC has produced a song that highlights the distinct elements coming from southern-based hip-hop with such a refusal to change, and it lends much respect towards Ciara’s throwback vibe.
Nicki Minaj is featured in two songs off of “Ciara,” and she adds the aggressive, fierce femme persona that Ciara hardly ever employs herself. Their styles, hard and soft, complement each other well most vividly in “I’m Out,” the first track in “Ciara.” Although Nicki isn’t the epitome of talent, she has an unmistakable precision in her flow that contrasts Ciara’s smooth and relaxed vocals. Minaj’s lyrical content featured in “Livin It Up” trumps that of “I’m Out,” although both are quite lacking in substance, but as usual with Nicki Minaj you either get style or you get content — although rarely content. Despite appreciating Nicki’s humble beginnings (“that’s why this lil Trini girl gettin’ the top checks”) “Livin It Up” is the least fitting song on the album.
Ciara will continue to make music the way she sees it, however that doesn’t always mean her fans will like what she produces. They will support her though, as Ciara has gotten 7/10 and 8/10 ratings from major reviewers who say, along with myself, Ciara has never let the game of R&B die, but has only refreshed the page as a more evolved woman and artist.
ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You’re ready to let go of the teen queen and embrace the more poised and naughtier Ciara.