Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Album Review: Ciara - Fantasy Ride (4/5)

I've been a conventional fan of Ciara ever since her debut back in 2004 with her smash hit single "Goodies," its accompanying album was mediocre at best, not really separating the singer from her R&B peers, her sophomore effort The Evolution turned me into a customary fan, finding the singer ditching the light urban sound and embracing songs with a bit more grip, sounding like a top-notch Janet. Her latest Fantasy Ride falls a tad short of its predecessor, but still makes for a good R&B album, using the archetypical blueprint for today's R&B album, upbeat, kinetic cuts blended with mellow ballads.

The opens with the sultry, "Ciara To The Stage" which pulses with its synthesized glory and Ciara's broiling vocal work. A very unusual start to an album with such an epic title, maybe because a 'Fantasy ride' starts off slow and then accelerates-- I don't know, but I was expecting something upbeat. Next up is the single we all know and love "Love Sex Magic" with Justin Timberlake, which I loved way before it became a hit single, and that love still goes strong.

Unlike Evolution, Fantasy Ride is pretty heavy on its features. "Turntables" with Chris Brown is a pretty good cut, thumping a catchy bassline, also incorporating a futuristic element to it. "Work" with Missy Elliot, features a fetching kinetic beat, Ciara's rap off on the verses are pretty entertaining. "Lover's Thing" with The-Dream, is more slow... well very slow, indulging in a lighthearted sensual vibe, "Never Ever" with Young Jeezy, which was one of the albums failed fist singles, is another slow cut, supporting an amiable melody --one of my personal favorites.

"High Price" with Ludacris has proved a winner amongst other fans, but I have yet to get into it, it reminds me of "Oh" from the Goodies album, which also featured Ludacris, but was million times better. "Keep Dancin' On Me" seems like a grower, but for the moment does nothing for me, a bland handclap and click with bits of synth.

The best track on the album is "Like A Surgeon", which has to be among the best single R&B tracks I've heard all year. Rocking a melodic, amalgamated structure, powered solely by Ciara's strong vocal. "Pucker Up" is another winner, employing a bleached electronic sound, advocated by acres of synth and camera-flash effects. The album closes with the very mellifluent "I Don't Remember," which I think should be a ballad, instead of a mid-packed handclap and click number.

Fantasy Ride is nowhere as innovative as Evolution but it makes for a good R&B album, despite a couple duds, it holds up well when you only take into consideration it's killer tracks.

Best: Love Sex Magic, Like A Surgeon, Turntables, Never Ever

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