Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S




Ciara Ciara

Anyone who had Ciara down as merely the princess of the uptempo party tune may be surprised by the depth of her sophomore album. And her new-found ambitions don’t stop at music, either.

While not quite an overnight sensation, to the casual observer, things appear to have blown up remarkably quickly for Ciara. It was clear she had friends in high places when she debuted with the Petey Pablo-featuring ‘Goodies’ in 2004, a track credited with coining the questionable urban sub-genre of ‘crunk & B’. The even livelier ‘1,2 Step’ followed, along with an appearance on Missy Elliott’s ‘Lose Control’, with only the Ludacris-endorsed slow-roller ‘Oh’ punctuating the flurry of uptempo, floor-filling party tunes.
Now, she’s poised to unleash her second album, ‘The Evolution’, which, as the title suggests, sees her deviate largely from the lively sound that’s become her trademark. Instead, she’s deliberately playing her diversity card, mixing slow jams and more reflective lyrical excursions. Even the first single ‘Like A Boy’, takes up unfamiliar lyrical territory, hypothetically reversing male and female roles in relationships.
“Things have truly been a grind, but it’s definitely been a good grind,” says a chatty Ciara doing the promo rounds in London. “I started when I was 14. I’m 21 now, so I’ve already put in seven years! But until I released my first album at 18, things didn't come easy. But I’m glad that I was patient enough to do things properly. I remember when I was 16 and I was like ‘I wish my album would be out right now.’ But I can say that I definitely feel good about where I am now. And I have so many more things that I want to achieve and accomplish.”
Part of the album’s diverse sound may well come from the fact that Ciara has taken a hands-on role in all aspects of the album’s production – from songwriting to executive production. She’s in good company, too, the likes of Pharrell, Rodney Jerkins, Polow and gracing the boards.
“I was very involved in this album. Actually, I was very involved in my last one, but the difference now is that I co-produced this album, and it was truly a fun experience. And I also want people to really feel the growth in me as a writer. So many things have changed for me since my last album, and I wanted to share that.”
One of the standout cuts is the steaming slow jam ‘Promise’, featuring an uncharacteristically subdued Busta Rhymes in its original form, and with a switched-up remix featuring R Kelly already doing the rounds.
“Promise’ was one of the songs that was the most unique to me at the point where I came to do the album. I also felt it was important to change the tempo because all my other songs have been so upbeat, and I wanted my fans to see another side of me. When I originally recorded ‘Promise’, I knew instantly I wanted R Kelly to do the remix, so I expressed that to my team and they made it work. And he put a lot of effort into it. He spent a month on that song trying to make it right, and for me that meant a lot because I have so much respect for him. I feel he really put the classic R Kelly touch on that remix like he always does.”
The alternative approach continues with ‘Like A Boy.’
“It’s a female empowerment song. I co-produced it with a guy named Calvo, who’s only 19. I’m so excited about that. I think he has so much ahead of him, and he’s really going to be on fire. This song is for my women, and I wanted to address what it would be like if the roles were reversed, and some of the things that guys can do, that would be OK for us. Such as having two cellphones, keeping your phone on silent, going out late at night, not having to call. And in the video, I wanted to embody the male persona, so I got tattoos, and I do a lot of fun things. I put on my suit and hat, and have cornrows at the back. I really wanted to bring the lyrics to life.”
By Ciara’s own admission, retro influences figure quite heavily on the album. Among her influences she cites TLC, Jodeci and Babyface. But primarily, it’s Michael Jackson.
“What amazes me about Michael is his ability to entertain, but also to think ahead and always be consistent. With all these artists I think the key thing about them is that, as well as making great music, they always thought ahead to where they wanted to go next.”
Ciara’s ambitions don’t stop at music production, however. Like so many other stars in the urban genre, she’s got her sights set on being an all-round business mogul.
Not so long ago, it was a mere handful of switched-on rappers with their fingers in the business pie. Now, there’s barely an A-list MC in the game without his or her own label, sneaker or clothing deal, and R&B artists are getting in on the act, too. Has capitalist ambition in the music game gone so far that it’s no longer enough for a singer to ‘just’ be an artist? Are business deals becoming an obligatory part of an artist’s overall picture?
“I just think everyone’s realising now how much more you can do, and how this music is the foundation, but is also the start to whatever else you want to do in business. You have people now who may not be new artists, they might have been into it for for ten years, but they’re just now starting to try something else outside of music for the first time in their career. So you start to realise your overall potential so much more when you have success in music.”
Words (((B&S)))

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

Join the B&S Mailing List

Blues and Soul on Twitter