Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Ciara Ciara Ciara Ciara

The hottest chick in the game right now, 23-year-old R&B superstar Ciara talks up her new album a storm while taking Pete Lewis on the ultimate âFantasy Rideâ.

Born Ciara Princess Harris in Austin, Texas in October 1985, with her father being a US Army sergeant Ciara grew up on military bases in Germany, New York, Utah, California, Arizona and Nevada - before, in her teens, finally settling with her family in Atlanta, Georgia. Inspired to pursue a music career after seeing Destinyâs Child perform on TV, she initially joined local girl-group Hearsay before being signed as a solo artist to legendary US music exec L.A. Reidâs LaFace Records in 2003.

Upon Ciara releasing her three-million-selling debut LP âGoodiesâ in 2005, its title-track single instantly became a transatlantic pop chart-topper. Which - with its success coinciding with the height of popularity of the Southern hip hop sub-genre âcrunkâ - immediately garnered her the title âThe Princess Of Crunkâ, due to it being produced by said genreâs self-proclaimed âKingâ, Lil Jon. With the album going on to provide two further international Top Five smashes (the Missy Elliot-featuring â1, 2 Stepâ and Ludacris-featuring âOhâ), Ciara unquestionably ended up one of 2005âs biggest new R&B success stories. Which in turn resulted in her going on to receive four Grammy nominations - while additionally guesting on international hits for the likes of her then-boyfriend, rapper Bow Wow; plus the aforementioned Missy Elliott.

Having made her acting debut in the 2006 MTV coming-of-age film âAll Youâve Gotâ, Ciara meanwhile in 2007 released her Platinum-certified sophomore album âThe Evolutionâ. Which - lyrically reflecting her personal growth after two years in the public eye - eventually found her prestigiously winning âWorldâs Best Selling Female R&B Artistâ at the 2007 World Music Awards. With 2008 next seeing her guest on high-profile albums like rapper Nellyâs âBrass Knucklesâ and Latino heartthrob Enrique Iglesiasâ âGreatest Hitsâ (the current Top 20 single âTakinâ Back My Love), May 2009 has now finally found Ciara releasing her highly-anticipated third LP âFantasy Rideâ.

Having already spawned the uptempo international Top Five duet with Justin Timberlake âLove Sex Magicâ, âFantasy Rideâ additionally boasts guest appearances from Southern rappers Ludacris and Young Jeezy; R&B boys Chris Brown and The-Dream; plus long-time collaborator Missy Elliott. Its edgy musical moods meanwhile include the opera-tinged menace of âHigh Priceâ; the Eastern-flavoured swagger of âG Is For Girlâ; the electronic Southern bounce of âTurntablesâ; and the provocative sexual vibe of âLike A Surgeonâ.

A bubbly, super-professional, and totally-fabulous-looking Ciara talks 10-to-the-dozen to Pete Lewis about her music and fast-moving career, while fielding a hectic day of interviews within the plush confines of Kensingtonâs opulent Royal Garden Hotel.

PETE: Why have you titled your new album âFantasy Rideâ?

CIARA: âOn a fantasy ride, anything can happen. Itâs all about the fun, thrill and excitement of not knowing whatâs coming next. And this is an album where Iâm sharing the many different sides of me that I havenât shared with my fans before, and also sharing my growth as a woman. You know, as a writer, a producer - and just creatively all-the-way-round - Iâm really having fun experimenting and growing and learning so much. And I feel this record is just like a reflection of all that stuff in one.â

PETE: Whatâs the story behind the albumâs artwork having its own comic book superhero theme?

CIARA: âI wanted my album artwork to be inspired by comic book illustrations. So for that I called on Bernard Chang, an amazing illustrator whoâs previously done stuff for âStar Trekâ and âWonder Womanâ. Super C is the name of my comic book superhero character and, from a personal perspective, the way it relates to me is that it represents my INNER superhero. Itâs basically just a symbolisation of my drive and ambition, and represents my courage as the woman I am today. So Iâm kinda having a little fun with all that, being playful. But then the more serious message behind it is that I feel thereâs a super-hero in ALL of us. Itâs basically that strength that comes from within, that helps you push forward and do what you believe in.â

PETE: Do you feel the Super C character is reflected in any of the song lyrics on âFantasy Rideâ?

CIARA: âAbsolutely! Because throughout this record Iâm actually even more confident and aggressive than Iâve been in the past! I mean - if youâve noticed - with some of my lyrics Iâm really like going HARD! Thereâs some bad attitude going on with tracks like âHigh Priceâ - which is very powerful and aggressive - and âPucker Upâ, where I have lyrics like âIâm aware of my supergirl swag/If you donât like it you can KISS my swagâ!... So yeah, Iâm really being quite cocky on some of the songs, in a very fun and playful way. And thatâs definitely the âSuper Câ in me coming out!â

PETE: So what did you want to achieve musically this time around?

CIARA: âThe ultimate goal was to make sure there was something on there for EVERYONE! Iâd describe this record as the perfect combination of R&B, hip hop and pop all infused in one. To be honest, I do feel Iâm sprinkling a little more of a poppier edge to my music this time. But, when the records DO get R&B, they get HEAVY R&B! Like I have a song called âLike A Surgeonâ, which definitely caters to the super-hardcore R&B fans. But, at the same time, it also fits in with the rest of this record, in that itâs still very much a feel-good track. You know, as a body of work - when you listen to it from the beginning to the end - I feel the energy on this record is even more on the uptempo side than my PAST albums. I definitely wanted to get you dancing in a way Iâve never done before.â

PETE: And how did you come to select some of the big-name guests?

CIARA: âIâll be honest. Before I started recording this album, I didnât plan on having ANY features. But then a lot of my features started to happen organically as I was going along and recording and writing. You know, I just felt the artists that I called on were the perfect artists TO call on for those actual tracks. And also none of them feels like a person just coming on there putting in an appearance for the sake of it. Like even with âLove Sex Magicâ, Justin (Timberlake) sings a little bit of the hook with me and THEN does his own verse. So it feels like weâre making a record TOGETHER! It doesnât feel like âOh, Iâm just coming on to do a verse so my name is on thereâ. Plus with Missy (Elliott), because my fans loved the songs weâd done together before - â1, 2 Stepâ and âLose Controlâ - I called her back so we could once again make the perfect party-starting record. And, on the song weâve done this time (âWorkâ), the two of us literally just partied together from the beginning to the end of the track!â

PETE: So what was the thinking behind bringing a thugged-out Southern rapper like Young Jeezy on board?

CIARA: âThe fact heâs on there is one reason why I say the record is absolutely the perfect combination of R&B, hip hop and pop. Because Iâve taken an artist like Jeezy - whoâs a very, VERY heavy representative of the street and hip hop in rap - and put him on a BALLAD, because I felt he would give me the edge that I NEEDED. Plus I also felt heâd represent for the GUYS on that track (âNever Everâ), because itâs definitely a song for my WOMEN! It basically deals with something Iâve been talking about a lot with my girlfriends. Which is how a woman often holds on to the hope that a man will change his ways or become special. But the reality is that that doesnât HAPPEN, and the relationship just gets dragged out.â

PETE: And what inspired the strikingly sensual video for âLove Sex Magicâ, where you display some breathtaking dance moves?

CIARA: âWell, I was inspired by The Crazy Horse Show, in terms of the actual visuals. I first saw it in Vegas, and then just recently I was lucky enough to go to The Crazy Horse Show in Paris, which is the original. And that was like AWESOME! I felt like a big KID! âCause I have so much respect for that show and its artistry. So, because I wanted to give my own âLove Sex Magicâ show, that became my visual reference. And for me it was so much fun making the video! You know, Justin (Timberlake) is one of the most easy-going, down-to-earth, hard-working and passionate artists you could ever work with. And, with both me and him, our goal was just to make the best video we could possibly MAKE together, and to give the fans something a little fun and a little unexpected.â

PETE: Do you feel growing up as an âarmy bratâ - and living on military bases in Germany, New York, Utah, California and Arizona - has impacted on you personally?

CIARA: âFrom a personal perspective it certainly broadened the way I look at things. Because it helped me be able to adapt to different cultures, lifestyles, and pretty much ANYTHING. So in that way yes, I look at it as an experience that was very necessary in shaping me to become who I am today. Because, when you travel around, itâs like you look at life differently and everything is not so one-sided. And I would definitely advise anyone who hasnât travelled outside of their own city or region, to go and visit as many places as you CAN. Because it really will broaden your outlook.â

PETE: And has that, in turn, given your music a more multi-cultural appeal?

CIARA: âAbsolutely! Because, while I do feel itâs affected me personally more than anything else, thereâs no question itâs also totally influenced my writing too! Because, when Iâm working on a song, I find Iâm able to put everything in perspective and keep EVERYONE in mind.â

PETE: How did you feel about being dubbed âThe Princess Of Crunkâ due to the musical flavour of your 2005 debut chart-topper âGoodiesâ?

CIARA: âWell, when I used to hear that definition, it did used to get to me. I definitely wasnât crazy about that title, because I just felt there was so much more to my music than crunk! You know, there was only that one track - âGoodiesâ - on my entire first album that was a genuine crunk record. And that was because it was produced by Lil Jon, who was officially known as âThe King Of Crunkâ! So thatâs why Iâve made it my aim with this new record to show people how much more there is to me! Itâs like the ultimate goal is to speak to every possible person in this world. For example, to me the song âKeep Dancinâ On Meâ is somewhat Euro-inspired in terms of the bigness of the track and the production. But, at the same time, itâs also a record I feel can reach out to EVERYONE. You know, as an artist I wanna go to every possible crack and crevice on this earth; I wanna go and meet every possible fan that I can possibly meet... And so I just wanna make music that can REFLECT that.â

PETE: So - as both a singer and dancer - what are your ideas on the current trend in US urban music towards Euro-dance-influenced, uptempo tracks?

CIARA: âI just feel music tends to somewhat recycle itself, and that weâve kinda been here before - like back in the day, when Michael Jackson had records like âPYTâ. Itâs like weâre in a time period right now where fashion is starting to become really, really strong. And I feel thatâs influencing the music, in that as artists weâre all expressing ourselves in a fun and creative way. You know, itâs like the fashion and the music are going hand-in-hand. Plus I think even the way the economy is changing is also playing a very important role in the tempo of the music right now. Because of all the drastic changes happening that could prove really tough, itâs like we all just wanna escape and have fun through the music. And that upbeat feel and energy definitely reflects that.â

PETE: âCan you tell me more about the new film you have coming out, âMama, I Want To Sing!â - which I understand is based on the off-Broadway musical?

CIARA: âWell, itâs a movie I filmed about two years ago thatâs actually going straight to DVD. I donât have a release date as of now. But what I can say is that I got the opportunity to work with Patti Labelle, Lynn Whitfield, Phil Harper, Billy Zane, and many OTHER talented actors and actresses. Basically the storyline revolves around the character I play going through the confusion of wanting to sing secular music while her mother is a televangelist. So youâve kinda got the reality of me saying âMama, I wanna SING! I wanna do what I aspire to DO! PLEASE let me live my DREAM!â kinda thing... And I can definitely say that I have big plans to do a lot more television and films in the near future, So, while my ultimate and biggest priority right now is music - I have to do a lot of touring around this new album - Iâm also hoping to do at least one or two more movies by the end of this year too.â

PETE: So what else is in the pipeline?

CIARA: âIâm going on tour next month with Britney (Spears). Which is something Iâm really looking forward to, because Iâm just really, honestly very proud of this new record. So Iâm very excited about sharing the artist Iâm becoming with my fans across the world. Plus Iâve definitely gotta say that Iâm a HUGE fan of fashion! So, while I am taking my time, when the moment is right I do want to start my own affordable clothing line. Then modelling also has always been one of my major ambitions. Iâve always had aspirations to do a lot more stuff like walking on a runway and doing a lotta cool, edgy, stylistic photo-shoots... So yeah, Iâm definitely playing around with all those things a whole lot more right now, and like just really TAKING it there!â

Ciara supports Britney Spears at O2 Arena, London on June 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, and 14. Tickets available from and the 24-Hour hotline: 0871 230 4422

Ciaraâs album âFantasy Rideâ and single âLove Sex Magic Featuring Justin Timberlakeâ are both out now through LaFace Records

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