Ciara's plan for her third studio album is to take listeners on a musical journey through a variety of styles. There is stylistic diversity here, but it is at the cost of sacrificing coherency to the overall package. The overall effect here is more of scrabbling together a hodgepodge of tracks than a musical ride with a point. A few songs are very good here, but the collection itself is forgettable.
Too Many Chefs Spoil This Broth
It is quite a common approach now for major singers to put together work from multiple high profile producers on an album. However, it is usually the performance personality of the artist that ties things together. Ciara is not a strong singer, and here she is overwhelmed by multiple musical chefs in the studio. The best music here reminds us either of Ciara's past triumphs or other artists. Hearing these songs on the radio I would be hard pressed to automatically realize, "Yes, that's Ciara," except for collaborators constantly saying "Ciara!"
A Few Highlights
There are some true highlights here. The Janet Jackson style musical moves on the hit single "Love Sex Magic" are infectious. Missy Elliot's confection "Work" lands somewhere between Ciara's contemporary classic "1,2 Step" and Missy Elliot's own "Lose Control." The album's closer, Ne-Yo's "I Don't Remember," is gorgeous animated by a midtempo beat wrapped in synthesizer swirls.
Top Tracks On 'Fantasy Ride'
- "Love Sex Magic"
- "Never Ever"
- "Pucker Up"
- "I Don't Remember"
Who Is Ciara as an Artist?
Ciara's debut album presented her as a barely legal sexual ingenue. Her second album The Evolution followed her emergence as a strong, independent artist. However, this time it is difficult to discover any particular identity put forth by Ciara. On Fantasy Ride she comes across as similar to a very talented American Idol finalist who continually simply picks songs to sing but seems unable to present a coherent image as an artist. Flashes of brilliance in the past have shown Ciara can be much more than simply a singer, but that promise is not fulfilled here.
Released May 2009 by LaFace Records