Let’s get this out the way immediately. Ciara is Ciara’s best fully engineered album since she first gave us a taste of Southern crunk, coquettish style, on her break-out single “Goodies”. It’s seamlessly sassy as CiCi displays a confidence that remains steady yet travels from firecracker to serene. Ciara has always been able to release good, sometimes great, singles, but not quite great albums that could last their approximate running time. While she named her second album pre-maturely The Evolution, the real progression has occurred for this album and the evidence has been overdue for some time, but nonetheless excellent to witness.
The production is also top-notch, meshing slick R&B with pop idealism that makes it a cruise for the club and or a dance alone jam session in your bedroom. “Read My Lips” exemplifies said description perfectly. Collaborators include Rodney Jerkins (so that’s where that feeling of Brandy’s Never Say Never comes from), Soundz, Mike Will Made It, and songwriters Livvi Franc and Wynter Gordon. Your sensory tidbits may also be giving you, at a swift ten-track listing, an overload of ’80s synth-pop which is its undercarriage. Evidently this is a genre she really felt unknowingly reposeful and creatively enlivened in. “DUI”, “Livin’ It Up”, and “Overdose” are ’80s retributions for today’s too-bad-you-missed the days of the pre-iPod era generation that would make Shannon (of “Make the Music Play” fame) plotting her own return. “DUI” is a slow-burning, alto-jazz experiment that may remind you of Kanye West’s simmering, acclaimed cut “Drive Slow”. The samplings are also rooted in bass booty jams from the ’90s, as heard on her new classic “Body Party”, and Kid ‘N Play’s “Rolling with Kid ‘N Play” heard on “Livin’ It Up”. For loyal fans that ’em some cocky Ciara, that’s here in spades on the opener “I’m Out”, especially made for the ladies, and “Super Turnt Up” where she drops her first rap verse.
If there was ever a feel-good R&B album in recent memory, this may be it. Nothing but positivity is celebrated here, and though previously meant for the album tracks like “Sorry” and “Got Me Good” when it was called One Woman Army are sorely missed, they were clues to the direction the 27-year-old was going, and despite not “impacting the charts”, sonically there were good signs. While artists secretly despise the word “comeback”, we’re calling this movement in Ciara’s music career exactly that because finally she’s participated in an album with staying power and who wouldn’t cheer on the (maybe now former) underdog?
–C. Shardae Jobson (@lavishrebellion)