Ciara - Fantasy Ride (2009)

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Club-ready, catchy tracks served up with sex and sass in a wily, whisper-thin voice. Although many grooved to her empowering, crunk-laced single "Goodies"  and it's slinky follow-up, "Oh," in 2004, few predicted that Ciara Princess Harris would last this long. But thanks to her talent for songwriting, her graceful good looks and gravity-defying dance moves, Ciara multiplied her fan base by displaying growth between her debut, Goodies, and her sophomore set, 2006's The Evolution.

Club-ready, catchy tracks served up with sex and sass in a wily, whisper-thin voice. Although many grooved to her empowering, crunk-laced single "Goodies"  and it's slinky follow-up, "Oh," in 2004, few predicted that Ciara Princess Harris would last this long. But thanks to her talent for songwriting, her graceful good looks and gravity-defying dance moves, Ciara multiplied her fan base by displaying growth between her debut, Goodies, and her sophomore set, 2006's The Evolution. With film roles around the corner and proteges under her wing, she could've stuck to her successful formula with her third set, Fantasy Ride, but Ciara chose to push the envelope artistically by melding dance music with bold production work, brassy collaborations (featuring Missy Elliott, The Dream, Ludacris, Young Jeezy and Justin Timberfake Timberlake, to name a few) and the introduction of, via the liner notes, her upcoming DC Comics alter ego, "Super C." While her ambition and artistic outlook is admirable, Fantasy Ride is a light on hits and long on misses, with several tracks oscillating between the two.

With 13 frothy, snyth-laden songs about love ("Never Ever"), swagger ("G Is For Girl {A-Z})" or droppin' it on the dance floor ("Work"), this ...Ride veers from plodding to pulsating: the undulating "Ciara To The Stage" isn't about a soundcheck, but about giving her man the best after-hours performance he's ever had, and the just-as-sinuous "Like A Surgeon" likens her sexy skills to those of a proven white-coat professional: "When it comes to love I'm a true tactician, I'ma make your body better, once you're in the right position."  But for every song that works, there are two or three more that don't. Her duet with The Dream, "Lover's Thing," isn't anchored by anything and is just a pair of voices swirling around each other , as is "Love Sex Magic," the much-ballyhooed duet with Timberlake, which is more contrived than catchy. The brassy, breathless "Turntables," her unfortunately-timed duet with Chris Brown, would've been a great single and video mere months ago, but is just painfully awkward listening right about now (can you imagine these 2 cutting a rug a la last year's BET Awards? Talk about excitement----why did Rihannagate have to happen?!?) .  And another wince-inducing cut, "High Price," is buoyed by the tangy flow of Ludacris, but is almost too irritating to bear because Ms. Harris, already an acknowledged vocal featherweight, chose to drop the verses like an overly-caffeinated opera singer (whyyyyyyyyeeeeee?!?).

Being entitled Fantasy Ride, one may not expect the CD to have especially profound material on it, but what fans do expect is consistency, a common thread throughout that unites the material. It's reassuring that Ciara is willing to expand her artistry,  but it should never be done at the expense of the material's relevance and relatability. For its attempt to go outside the box and the handful of engaging tracks, Fantasy Ride earns a moderate recommendation.

Melody Charles

 
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