After the lukewarm commercial reception towards her last two albums, Fantasy Ride and Basic Instinct, led to her departure with record label, LaFace Records, R&B songstress Ciara celebrates ten years in the music industry with the release of her self-titled fifth studio album which features uptempo pop creations, verses from Future and Nicki Minaj and preceding singles “Body Party” and “I’m Out”. While some of the new effort sounds like most of the creations on the radio, the body of work from the artist showcases incredible vocals, daring songwriting and some of her most experimental songs to date. After a couple of “failures”, it seems Ciara had something to prove.
With the strong opener, “I’m Out”, the new album proves that Ciara is not playing it safe this time around. Supported by a decent, too-long-for-my-liking guest verse from Nicki Minaj, the rest of the fast-paced track has the artist telling her boyfriend he will surely regret the day he left. Ultimately a woman empowerment anthem, the second single is the perfect, seductive, revengeful starter. The album’s lead single “Body Party”, which has currently peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100, her biggest hit in four years, is a slow, steamy ballad which should be played in every bedroom as Ciara’s vocals slink across production that only enhances the experience.
On the aggressive and extremely dirty “Sophomore”, Ciara decides to give her lover a lesson in sex education with lyrics such as “don’t drop out, stay in the game, better come heard boy, you know my name,” she sings. Clearly the song is the artist’s most blunt plea for erotic attention.
“Keep On Lookin’” brings the artist back to her R&B/hip-hop roots as she sings about all the boys fighting over all she has to offer. The singer warns all the wannabe suitors that looking is as far as they are going to get, but changes her tone on the upbeat, synthpop “Read My Lips” where she seems to have found the right man to handle all that she brags about. Overall, the track blends in 80s influences with a modern sound to create a unique, memorable addition to the album. ”I just want to take care of you baby, read my lips, that’s all you gotta do”, she tells the object of her affection.
After its minute-long intro, “Where You Go”, featuring rapper Future, is an honest, sentimental piece of a love story. The love may be over, the song tells of what happens when the smiles are gone, but Ciara seems to only want to remember the good. The song features one of her slowest vocal deliveries on the album and remains a true, vulnerable experience.
Driving under the influence is never a good idea unless Ciara is behind the felony. “DUI” is a mid-tempo jam with lines referencing a desire for handcuffs and dirty talk. As a metaphor for losing all self-control and inhibitions from falling head over heels in love, the overly sexual track keeps the album moving down the right path.
The new album closes with two pop tracks, the first being the Wynter Gordon-penned “Livin’ It Up” which also samples a song from Kid ‘N Play. Featuring a Caribbean, fit for the beach vibe, the anthem targeting the independent women is all about feeling good and living life. Nicki Minaj lends a hand once again and seems a better fit than the two’s former pairings. Ciara saves the best for last on the new album. The EDM-inspired “Overdose” is an immediate contender for one of the best track of the year and hopefully receives the single treatment it deserves. With its addictive, infectious pop beat, strong vocals and a straightforward theme, the artist sings “let me fall, let me fall, baby let me drown, can’t breathe, can’t breathe, give me mouth to mouth” on the effort’s best moment.
Ciara’s self-titled fifth album has to be her strongest, most consistent body of work since her debut back in 2004. With features from big names in the rap genre and electropop influences, Ciara creates an album that does more than remain one boring journey, every track is fresh and different. The new effort flies high and represents the artist’s hard work and her motivation to rise from the ashes of her last two releases. There are a few stumbles buried within, it’s not perfect, but Ciara’s fifth offering is a no holds bar, straightforward, confident attempt at revitalizing her deserved career.