Ciara CiaraBasic Instinct
What the low sales of “Fantasy Ride” meant for Ciara’s bank account often leads one to unconsciously declare it to be a failure. Nevertheless, Ciara’s last album arrived at a difficult moment for the recording industry, when profits were falling quickly, while expenses remained the same. It is also true that “Fantasy Ride” wasn’t the latest thing in R&B, nor was it really fresh stylistically, like “Goodies” had been. But it did have a very decent collection of producers and some attractive songs that gave rise to videos already stamped onto our collective retina (Timberlake rubbing up against Cici in “Love Sex Magic” is the most obvious example, but the sexy cement factory thing in “Work” also had something to say for itself). Seen from the distance of time and with “Basic Instinct” already digested, the worst thing about Ciara Harris’ previous album might have been its cover, since this misstep seems to have implied a certain maturity for the artist, or at least a different way of taking her musical career.
In the first place, what R&B diva has hit the nail on the head with an album in recent years? The only one who immediately comes to mind is Beyoncé, whose vocal superiority makes comparisons with the princess of crunk&B not only odious, but out of place. And Aaliyah. Although her tragic death helped to make her an icon, one has to admit that her alliances, first with R. Kelly, and later with Timbaland, have marked the course of black music. Ciara, like Aaliyah in her day, seems to have learned that her potential lies in the way that she moves and, therefore, in the audiovisual market, and also in creating back and forth “bangers” to show off that collection of body suits and swimsuits that all of us love to have in our wardrobe. This is where the perks, the royalties, and the perfect hook are for some brand to choose her as their cover girl.
So what about the artist’s personal growth and satisfaction? We suppose that this comes from being able to pick the producers you want to work with and shut yourself up in the studio with them, tailoring the composition of the album as much as possible to what those three souls can offer as a team. Said and done. The-Dream and Tricky Stewart have signed almost all of the cuts on this “Basic Instinct”, where Harris has exchanged ambition and possible recording pressures for the comfort of doing what she wants. And it’s precisely where Tricky or The-Dream don’t appear in the credits that this album hurts your ears. “Heavy Rotation” (although the beat works, it has a euro-progressive that makes your skin crawl) and “Turn It Up” with Usher, are the closest that Ciara comes to catching that horrible pandemic that is spreading throughout the urban world: the “David Guettization” of the R&B diva. This is one of the strong points of “Basic Instinct”: it shows that Ciara hasn’t let herself get carried away by the obsession with the 4x4 that has taken hold of Rowland, Kelis and Rihanna.
The album’s other strong point is that Cici’s limited voice has found the best possible ally in The-Dream. Where before you might find a forced falsetto or extenuated phrasing, now you find a melodic hollow and the torrid cadence that rounds out any of Nash’s productions. Although the author of “Umbrella” doesn’t offer his best, when he makes you notice him (“Speechless” , “You Can Get It” and “I Run It” to a lesser extent) there are no “buts” about the song. So “Ride” (Ludacris, you’re a fifth wheel), the first single on this work, both chronologically and in terms of quality, also sounds like an amorous declaration of intentions and an acceptance of reality: Ciara doesn’t sell albums like hotcakes, but she doesn’t need to show a nipple to be censored on BET. According to the Los Angeles Times, over 18 million hits on YouTube stand behind her.
In reality –and adding an inspired moment of “Basic Instinct (U Got Me)” or “Gimmie Dat”– this effectively ends Ciara’s fourth work, which isn’t dazzling, but which does show a certain evolution when it comes to approaching her style. She will continue to be the princess of crunk&B thanks to mixtapes like “The Princess Is Here” , which contains the most lucid part of this album, as well as a few Southern pearls and the inestimable presence of Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka. And although Keri Hilson is likely to steal the show from her by giving Rick Ross the look and putting out videos with production, we love the way she ride the beat all the time.