Ashanti - The Declaration (2008)

Ashanti
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Whether they love her or hate her, few are in a position to dispute the meteoric 2002 rise of R&B songstress Ashanti.  Not only did she become Murder Inc.'s hook queen by appearing on many of their artists' earlier hits (Fat Joe's "What's Luv," Ja Rule's "Always On Time," J. Lo's "Ain't It Funny" remix), she became the first-ever female performer to chart two singles simultaneously on the Billboard 100 chart and watched her own self-titled CD debut at number one, earning the highest-ever first time CD sales (over half a million) for an R&B female.  Detractors criticized her simplistic lyrics and featherweight vocals, but it didn't keep her subsequent songs ("Happy," "Rock wit U [Awww Baby]," "Rain on Me" and "Only U") or her burgeoning acting career (Coach Carter, John Tucker Must Die, Resident Evil: Extinction), from barreling full steam ahead.
Whether they love her or hate her, few are in a position to dispute the meteoric 2002 rise of R&B songstress Ashanti.  Not only did she become Murder Inc.'s hook queen by appearing on many of their artists' earlier hits (Fat Joe's "What's Luv," Ja Rule's "Always On Time," J. Lo's "Ain't It Funny" remix), she became the first-ever female performer to chart two singles simultaneously on the Billboard 100 chart and watched her own self-titled CD debut at number one, earning the highest-ever first time CD sales (over half a million) for an R&B female.  Detractors criticized her simplistic lyrics and featherweight vocals, but it didn't keep her subsequent songs ("Happy," "Rock wit U [Awww Baby]," "Rain on Me" and "Only U") or her burgeoning acting career (Coach Carter, John Tucker Must Die, Resident Evil: Extinction), from barreling full steam ahead.

Well, in the four years since 2004's Concrete Rose, Murder Inc.'s CEO, Irv Gotti, was tried---and later acquitted---on federal money laundering charges, throwing everyone's careers there into a tailspin. And there's also a larger batch of female R&B singers these days with stronger pipes and just as much sex appeal as Ashanti, so there's a lot riding on her fourth CD, The Declaration.

Does she deliver? Yes and no; there are more collaborators here than ever before, including Rodney Jerkins, Babyface, Seven Aurelius (aka Channel 7), L.T. Hutton (of Snoop Dogg's camp) and Jermaine Dupri.  And Instead of being a starry-eyed ingénue singing about love and ladies' night out,  she's raging over a broken heart, catching her man in the act ("The Way That I Love You,"), putting another's dirty deeds on blast ("The Declaration") or a losing a player in her rearview mirror ("You're Gonna Miss"). As for 'sensual seduction' time, she's either fawning over her man's swagger, ("Things You Make Me Do," featuring Robin Thicke), making breathless promises ("Girlfriend")  or bragging on own skills, such as in the buoyant and bouncy JD joint, "Good Good": "I put it on him right, do it every night, leave him sittin' mouth open like 'WHOO!'" So what's missing? Her vocals.

Don't get it twisted; fans will certainly enjoy this CD, and she's convincing in her anguish and disbelief on "The Way That I Love You." Ashanti also brings that trademark as sass and sweetness in pro-relationship ditties like "Struggle" and "In These Streets," which certainly demonstrate that she's done some growing in her absence. But in the end,  there's just waaaay too much competition  for her to keep bringing the same ol' same ol', and it leaves Ashanti's  Declaration sounding more more like, well...The Recital.

By Melody Charles

 
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