Watch Ciara’s videos, and you get some sort of sense who the singer is. Though she’s been making albums since 2004, the newly minted Epic artist has started becoming her own for diggable and stylish clips. She’s a ferociously adept dancer; her fashion and facial expressions say so much more than her words do. And on her self-titled effort, Ciara has a lot of words that don’t mean very much.
It was smartly indicative that “Ciara” kicks this off with biting and fun “I’m Out”: Nicki Minaj
is in top form, the production and arrangement will set all your stuff on fire and dance around it and the core kiss-off is darkly celebratory. But Ciara doesn’t have first verse. She’s basically doing two versions of a hook, one of which sounds like the updated version of “Luck Be a Lady.” There’s a lot of flash-bang and you exit having only a hint of what the rest of the album is on, and what she’s about.
So it stumbles into Robot Ciara for “Sophomore,” which literally one-notes her orgasmic game, then into another highlight “Body Party.” This simmer-temp sultry single has fared well since it was released earlier this year, but no other “crunk & B” tune comes close to matching the “party” favors, in her fried notes and those little runs. The fillers are obvious, and the metaphors even more so. “DUI” stands for “driving under the influence of your touch,” if that’s any indication, and “Read My Lips” has even worse implications of keeping your man fed with oral sex and/or a woman’s cooking. You can guess your best on “Overdose.”
Her “Body Party” dance partner (and boyfriend) Future
is sweetly soft rock on “Where You Go,” while Minaj’s other turn on the album, “Livin’ It Up,” comes up with a spirited mid-‘90s throwback. She keeps the vibe of her vocals Janet-small, which is a fun spin on lines like “I would tell ya hater to f*ck off / But I’m still such a lady” in “Keep On Lookin’.” But even with an array of producers like Rodney Jerkins, Mike WiLL Made-It and Livvi Franc, “Ciara” is mostly different flavors of bland songwriting. I can’t tell when Ciara, singer, is in her zone, or letting go, or feeling at her best (or worst). “Ciara” is just there.