Ciara - Fantasy Ride

Posted May 5, 2009
Tags: Ciara,

Fill in the blank: Ciara is the next ______. Ever since Ciara Princess Harris and her...

Fantasy Ride Album Review

Fill in the blank: Ciara is the next ______. Ever since Ciara Princess Harris and her impossibly long legs announced that her goodies were not for sale, she’s been in that category of artists who aren’t quite superstars, but for whom big things seem inevitable. Now it’s not easy being next. The pressure can be intense and ironically, you’re constantly being compared to someone who achieved stardom by only being themselves. When you think about it, it’s completely unfair and reductionist to talk about someone as a “next.” And yet...

Like a fat kid offered a second slice of pie, we can’t help ourselves. So screw it: Ciara is the next Janet Jackson. Like Janet, she entered the national consciousness as a young woman who commanded respect for her dance tracks, dance moves and a style that played with traditional gender roles. For her third album, Fantasy Ride, Ciara continues to follow Janet’s career arc, becoming intimately comfortable with her own sexuality without becoming a sexual object. Just a few months ago Fantasy Ride reportedly spanned three discs before being cut back, a wise move that nonetheless gives the album a patchwork feel, but that’s far from a disaster. The fact that Ciara still hasn’t fulfilled her potential says less about her failings and more about how high her ceiling is.

There’s nothing better than an “oh s**t” moment. It’s that rare event that occurs when a track is so overwhelmingly dope your brain shuts down and the only thing you can think is, “oh s**t.” Simply put, High Price is an oh s**t track. Price is essentially a remix of her past hit Oh, right down to the immersively electronic production and the murderous Ludacris verse. Impressively, the most notable thing about Price is Ciara’s vocals, an operatic affair dripping with style and charisma that’s proof of her growth as a singer. Unfortunately, the other quasi-remake on Fantasy Ride doesn’t fare as well. Ciara teamed up with Missy for her smash hit Lose Control, so it’s only natural that they reunite for the hyper-energetic Work, a track whose bouncing vibe is weighed down by the duo’s heavy-handed attempts to recreate Lose Control’s magic. Tracks like these have to happen naturally or not at all. Sorry, Work just doesn’t work.

Just to complicate things I’m going to throw in another next: Ciara is the next Aaliyah. In addition to a penchant for bare stomachs, both make up for their lack of a world-class voice with a delivery that leaves you hanging on every note. Or maybe it’s just Like A Surgeon that has me making the comparison. Surgeon was crafted by The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, but there’s something very Timbaland-esque in their production, and combined with Ciara’s steamy vocals I was having a serious More Than A Woman flashbacks. Similarly, Fantasy Ride’s lone pure ballad, the minimally produced I Don’t Remember, strips away the dance energy and focuses on the music. True, this ballad is about Ciara getting so drunk she can’t remember last night, but it’s still a ballad, and one she carries capably.

Most of Fantasy Ride rolls between these two ends of the musical spectrum, hovering in that vast range between dance anthems and slow-paced sensuality. Case in point, Never Ever, a pop-oriented track built around a sampled chorus courtesy of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes "If You Don’t Know Me By Now" and a good but ultimately forgettable Young Jeezy verse. I’ll Never Ever play this song again, but Ciara’s teenage fans should eat it up. (Speaking of which, I was wondering if I’d be able to listen to Chris Brown without thinking, that guy punched Rihanna in the face. The answer? No, no I can’t, as the mediocre Turntables proves.) Personally, I’d rather listen to tracks like G Is For Girl, a banging cut showcasing Ciara’s considerable swagger. G at least gives me a small sense of who Ciara is, something that’s unfortunately rare on an album where she sometimes disappears. To come full circle, Janet took the next step when she started making music that made you think, damn, only Janet could have done that song. I’ve felt that way watching Ciara dance, but I have yet to hear an album that made me react that way musically, and Fantasy Ride is not that album. Still, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before Ciara stops being the next Janet/Aaliyha/whoever, and becomes, at last, simply Ciara.

(Follow me on Twitter to get regular album review updates and insightful gems like, "Has anyone ever been crushed by their ex via song like Bow Wow got killed by Ciara in Like a Boy?")

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted May 5, 2009
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