43:10 min • Epic • July 5, 2013
John Preston reviews
If Ciara were a cat she’d definitely be on her ninth life by now. Despite massive success- a chart number one, no less, with ‘Goodies’ in 2004 – and being responsible for pioneering a music craze with krunk, the further long term success she has tried commendably hard to achieve has all but alluded her. A surprisingly prolific artist, she has gone from one record label to another, seen release dates pushed back to the point of exhaustion and has done some extensive online promotion of some incredible singles which then never saw the light of day. This, her self-titled fifth album, is her best since her debut and is certainly her strongest set of songs to date. As I’m actually holding it in my hands I can confirm that does in fact really exist.
Over an economical ten tracks, Ciara still plays around with what could be considered as her signature sound; moody, skeletal soundscapes which are slowed down and sped up again. This technique is best demonstrated on the spacey and drunken ‘Where You Go’, and the buzz and drama of ‘Super Turnt Up’. The current single ‘I’m Out’, featuring Nicki Minaj, plays to current R ‘n’ B trends with its rapid hand claps. It is a decent if derivative attempt at a ladies’ anthem, Minaj being on good form especially here with her explanation of the consequences of having a big bottom being particularly to the point and hilarious.
It’s on the perfectly formed playful slabs of pop R ‘n’ B however, the likes of which haven’t been heard since the golden days of 2001 (Christina Milan ‘AM to the PM’, Jennifer Lopez ‘Play’, M´ya ‘Case of the Ex’), that really pushes the quality skyward and potentially places Ciara in a very powerful position. ‘Livin’ It Up’, again featuring Minaj (but unnecessarily on this occasion) is a funky, breezy and easy blast of pure, feel good adrenaline. On the even better ‘Overdose’, which must refer to the amounts of hooks contained within it, Ciara has never sounded so self-assured. The Rodney Jerkins ‘plip-plopping’ drum machine dominated ‘Read My Lips’ doesn’t quite scale these heights but it comes a close second and is beautifully sweet sounding whilst being, lyrically, hysterically pornographic.
It’s hard to say where this will take Ciara. The slow jam of the predictably sensual ‘Body Party’, also featured here in a more interesting slow/fast trap remix, has already featured on the US Billboard charts. She is now a smooth and capable performer; her determination and ambition cannot be faltered. R ‘n’ B in 2013 is still a confused genre but Ciara has remained a constant for almost a decade now, the overall strength of Ciara combined with the oh so necessary go-hard marketing could see her propelled her back into the limelight, her natural home surely? Let’s certainly hope so.