Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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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 donât 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 âGoodiesâ in 2004, a track credited with coining the questionable urban sub-genre of âcrunk & Bâ. The even livelier â1,2 Stepâ followed, along with an appearance on Missy Elliottâs âLose Controlâ, with only the Ludacris-endorsed slow-roller âOhâ punctuating the flurry of uptempo, floor-filling party tunes.
Now, sheâs poised to unleash her second album, âThe Evolutionâ, which, as the title suggests, sees her deviate largely from the lively sound thatâs become her trademark. Instead, sheâs deliberately playing her diversity card, mixing slow jams and more reflective lyrical excursions. Even the first single âLike A Boyâ, takes up unfamiliar lyrical territory, hypothetically reversing male and female roles in relationships.
âThings have truly been a grind, but itâs definitely been a good grind,â says a chatty Ciara doing the promo rounds in London. âI started when I was 14. Iâm 21 now, so Iâve already put in seven years! But until I released my first album at 18, things didn't come easy. But Iâm glad that I was patient enough to do things properly. I remember when I was 16 and I was like âI wish my album would be out right now.â 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.â
Part of the albumâs diverse sound may well come from the fact that Ciara has taken a hands-on role in all aspects of the albumâs production â from songwriting to executive production. Sheâs in good company, too, the likes of Pharrell, Rodney Jerkins, Polow and gracing the boards.
âI 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.â
One of the standout cuts is the steaming slow jam âPromiseâ, featuring an uncharacteristically subdued Busta Rhymes in its original form, and with a switched-up remix featuring R Kelly already doing the rounds.
âPromiseâ 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 âPromiseâ, 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.â
The alternative approach continues with âLike A Boy.â
âItâs a female empowerment song. I co-produced it with a guy named Calvo, whoâs only 19. Iâm so excited about that. I think he has so much ahead of him, and heâs 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.â
By Ciaraâs own admission, retro influences figure quite heavily on the album. Among her influences she cites TLC, Jodeci and Babyface. But primarily, itâs Michael Jackson.
âWhat 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.â
Ciaraâs ambitions donât stop at music production, however. Like so many other stars in the urban genre, sheâs 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, thereâs 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 itâs no longer enough for a singer to âjustâ be an artist? Are business deals becoming an obligatory part of an artistâs overall picture?
âI just think everyoneâs 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 theyâre 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.â
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