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In 2004 Ciara Harris burst on to the music scene, her dance moves blowing us all away. She shifted millions of copies of her debut, Goodies, and 2006's follow-up, Ciara: The Evolution, but Fantasy Ride has stalled before it'd even started. Changing her image from a tomboy with hot moves to a diva with high heels, she even changed her music too. Was it a mistake leaving her Crunk roots behind? Millions of fans who appear to have deserted would say so, but I disagree.
The concept behind this album was that Ciara's music would take listeners on a ride through three different genres of music: Crunktown tracks would represent Crunk, Kingdom of Dance would supply hot dance numbers, and Groove City would allow us to mellow out to smooth r'n'b. Originally the album was going to be released on three discs, but the powers that be decided to stick to one for unknown reasons. However, the songs still fit into the different genres, so it's still clear which 'city' or 'kingdom' they'd have belonged to. Sadly the songs are not logically grouped together as they would have been on three separate discs, so you find yourself moving from Groove City's sultry duet with The Dream, Lover's Thing, to Crunktown's Work, and soon you're back in Groove City with Keep Dancin' On Me.
Ciara's vocals depend on the type of genre she is in. On uptempo songs like Work and Pucker Up she's not actually singing but speaking over the track, so in those instances her vocal talent is hard to judge. Even songs like the international hit Love, Sex and Magic featuring Justin Timberlake do not require Mariah Carey circa 1990 vocals. Then you enter Groove City where Ciara's voice cannot be hidden or avoided. Her voice is fine on Keep Dancin' and Tell Me What Your Name Is, but when she pushes her voice too far is becomes harder to listen to, which is the case on I Don't Remember. She is clearly trying, which deserves respect, but this song just supports those who believe she should stick to fast numbers.
The lyrics fit those expected by today's artists. The emphasis is on catchy phrases that listeners' will remember on the first listen, not deep, moving words that will feel fresh in twenty years time.
Ciara drew in many guests, but possibly too many. Sometimes a duet suits the song, e.g. Ludacris on the operatic High Price and Chris Brown on Turntables, but at times the person seems to have been included just for the sake of if. The first single Never Ever is a prime example of this. The featured rapper Young Jeezy is not necessary yet he was included anyway. Ciara could have easily carried the song by herself, but it seems the record label did not have enough faith in her to let that happen. A woman who has been in the business for five years should not need support from six guests. One or two would be suffice, but six?
Despite the jumbled track list, overload of guests, and lack of strong vocal ability, I enjoyed this album and play at least two or three of the songs on a regular basis since purchase. Loyal Ciara fans seeking more Ciara from 2004/2006 will be disappointed because she has moved on.
Standout tracks: Tell Me What Your Name Is, Work, and Turntables.
After initially hoping to come out with a triple CD of three different sides to the musicians work, the Atlanta R&B singer Ciara released her third album, "Fantasy Ride" in a typical way in 2009. This one has her moving things on a fair distance form her Crunk & B debut alongside Jazzy Pha as she moves more towards the Pop world, although she dos balance tune which have her joining forces with The-Dream, Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake with appearances by Missy Elliot, Young Jeezy and Ludacris
1. "Ciara To The Stage" (Intro)
2. "Love Sex Magic"
Although she had dropped a few promo singles before this, these didn't get included in the main body of the album, making this Justin Timberlake-assisted song the lead and key single form the album. It came as a banger from her as she jumps on some funky production to come up with a killer joint to appeal to all.
3. "High Price"
Just as you got from her debut album "Goodies" you have the "Oh" days brought back here as she works with Luda again to show just how people do things down in the Dirty South and how the R&B differs in A-Town specifically with a dark joint which has her pulling out a heavy jam to get you bobbing along as they get on to it.
Chris Brown comes to help her out here as they come together on (majority) Danja production here. it has them moving towards the direction which we have seen the pair of them go in as they progressive worked their way back from R&B to Pop and so here you have one with minimal R&B aspects and a pretty generic format when looking at the 2008/2009 sounds.
5. "Like A Surgeon"
This is a grungy tune from here which has her getting down to the more progressive sounds of Crunk which push things off from all the high-tempo and high-energy work in towards the heavy pounding and deep bass drops which make it fit in with the expectations of 2009's trends of this kind of material.
6. "Never Ever"
You get one of the biggest Gangsta Rappers in Atlanta coming to join her on the one track which I wouldn't have put him on as she moves into the ballad-style work. The light nature of this is completely unlike what he normally works with and this took things so far off-course that I couldn't' really get it following his participation as she takes on "If You Don't Love Me By Now".
7. "Lover's Thing"
I wasn't real expecting tha much from this one as you see that The-Dream comes to work with her, as I expected that he would choose to dominate the material to a degree where you completely forget he role in it as it just goes towards his supposed 'perfect' structure of forming hits (which by this point was out-dated). It is a plain and offers little here.
You finally get a lift in the album as for this one you see another key Ciara- link up and this time it is with Missy Elliot. It is a funky one and bounces well of the wack songs which came before it as she gets you moving again to prevent you from getting bored by all the lifeless material. It has an Electro-Hop backing.
9. "Pucker Up"
Moving things on a little you see tha the Electronica elements persist through it, but I felt that the way it was done for this one made it sound much more like the style which many of the Pop acs of the time tend to go with and so it wasn't really all that appealing at all here. It is a pretty repetitive one and is poorly written when compared to others.
10. "G Is For Girl"
Moving towards the Beyoncé "Diva" style of R&B, you see that Ciara does a heavy track to rival B's work to show that she is just as good as the R&Gangsta material. It is a fun one and has the album bounce from another low, up again to show how poorly this has been ordered to make little sit well at any one time.
11. "Keep Dancin' On Me"
As Tricky Stewart and The-Dream are behind the production of this one I just knew where it would be taken and it was towards a direction which I just wasn't feeling at all with more of the Electronica Pop material coming through. It is a deep and dark one, but with the pair generic mould for this type of tune, it just doesn't sound original in any way here.
12. "Tell Me What Your Name Is"
Te Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Britney Spears producer Dr. Luke jumps on this one and so the genre direction chosen for this one was clear, but with additional producer brought in I expected to have some degree of variety from it, but it failed to o so and kept things on the same level as what was found on the one before it.
13. "I Don't Remember"
Ending the album off, you see that Ciara chooses to stay with the Pop (rather than turning back towards R&B) as you find that Ne-Yo gets on the beats (and backing vocals|) and produces for her as she does one which as her backed by winding production and a structure which is designed to grow on you over time.
This album has a futuristic feel to it, but I felt that the Electronica elements of it were largely what led to its downfall as it was this part of what you get from it which produced the weaker end of the material and prevented her from getting into all the kind of things which made the artist what she is. It does have a few big ones, but the way it is ordered means you completely forget about them.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Ciara To The Stage
2 Love Sex Magic - Ciara & Justin Timberlake
3 High Price - Ciara & Ludacris
4 Turntables - Ciara & Chris Brown
5 Like A Surgeon
6 Never Ever - Ciara & Young Jeezy
7 Lover's Thing - Ciara & The Dream
8 Work - Ciara & Missy Elliott
9 Pucker Up
10 G Is For Girl (A To Z)
11 Keep Dancin' On Me
12 Tell Me What Your Name Is
13 I Don't Remember