You would have to be blind to not notice that Ciara has had a pretty rough run of luck over the past couple of years. After her first three albums all debuted top three on the Billboard albums chart, Basic Instinct whimpered in at number 44 back in 2010, with only a top three showing for “Ride” on the R&B chart to show for it. Since then, there’s been an air of desperation about the number of singles that have been leaked or released to the public, including the passable “Sorry” and the underrated “Got Me Good.” Fortunately, Ciara found a track that stuck its landing in “Body Party,” which continues to climb multiple charts as the self-titled album it resides on is unleashed upon the world. It may be because she co-wrote six of the album’s ten tracks, but titling this album after herself may have signaled that this record is more representative of who Ciara is, and that confidence shows.
Ciara could have easily been a Frankenstein of a record, with all of these attempts to capture any popular trend in the marketplace leading to a disjointed body of work. However, the disc ends up being a cohesive work, traveling a line from current hip-hop-vibed tracks like single number two “I’m Out” (one of two tracks featuring Nicki Minaj) and “Body Party” into two of the most pop-sounding tracks Ciara has recorded in a while. “Overdose” could easily have appeared on a Kylie Minogue or Jennifer Lopez album with a slightly different production, but the gem of the pop tracks is “Livin’ It Up,” which may be Ciara’s best chance at climbing the pop charts since “Love Sex Magic” with Justin Timberlake back in 2009. Between a well-placed Kid N Play sample (“Rollin’ with Kid ‘N Play”), a more subdued Minaj verse and a soaring chorus, “Livin’” deserves to be considered for any summer driving playlist with the windows down and that “oh la, oh la heyyy” refrain playing on repeat.
So Ci Ci’s got the pop vibes covered, but the R&B and hip-hop tinged tracks we have come to expect deliver as well. Crunked out track “Keep On Lookin’” benefits from production duo Rock City’s touch, while “Sophomore” delivers a clever analogy over a laid-back groove that suits Ciara’s delivery well. In fact, the only cut that does not land right is a track originally meant for her boyfriend Future’s album that he shares a featured credit on. “Where You Go” may have personal resonance for Ciara, but in the sonic context of this record it does not fit. Future’s vocal delivery does not help at all, and it throws the vibe of Ciara off a bit. Advance track “Sorry” would have fit much better into this slot, but one less than solid track out of ten still makes for a solid record.
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