Despite success with early tracks like Goodies, 1, 2 Step and later the likes of Love Sex Magic and Ride, Ciara has never quite lived up to her potential. Her 2013 self-titled album was a strong collection of songs but it failed to produce a worthy single (though Body Party came close).
Now we have sixth album ‘Jackie’, named after her mother and drawing parallels between their experiences of motherhood. It’s unlikely, however, to bring Ciara fame and success.
Opening track Jackie (B.M.F) for instance begins with the lyrics “Jackie was a girl, more than just a girl / She always had big dreams” before dropping into a repeated refrain of “I’m a bad mother fucker” alongside a complete change of pace. It’s symptomatic of an artist torn between the demands of motherhood and wanting to remain current and relevant, a dilemma that Ciara fails to balance across the album.
That track is followed by That’s How I’m Feelin’. Anyone hoping another Missy Elliott feature will provide a hit will be disappointed: this falls firmly into generic EDM-R&B territory, even if Missy’s rap is the highlight of the track. And that’s despite/because of a verse from Pitbull (“I wanna please you baby, explore your private parts in a private place”). Then there’s the dull Lullaby – no not a song to Ciara’s child, but a very different sort of lullaby (“me on you and you on me, I don’t mind being your freak”). The melody is almost entirely ripped from Nelly & Kelly's Dilemma.
It’s only at the halfway point that the album picks up, thanks to lead single I Bet. It might sound almost identical to Usher’s 2001 track U Got It Bad, but it appeared to spearhead an album that would seemingly hark back to an old school R&B sound. Sadly that’s not the case. Instead this track remains the most grounded and relatable of all in a sea of chart-ready mediocrity, probably inspired by her public break-up with ex-fiancé, rapper Future.
From there, Ciara hits her stride with a series of sexy jams (on the deluxe edition at least): Give Me Love, Kiss & Tell, All Good and Only One. The smooth, mid-tempo Kiss & Tell is an especially enjoyable slice of pop. These four tracks won’t win any awards for originality – they’re aimed squarely at a radio-friendly audience – but their hooks are just about memorable enough in the context of the album.
It’s not until the very end that Ciara finally delivers a proper Beyoncé-esque banger so big it demands its own introductory track: One Woman Army. It’s a blaze of ferocious rhythms, fierce lyrics and a euphoric chorus, whilst its carnival middle-eight is ideal for the dancefloor. Placed towards the start of the album it could’ve made a considerable impact. At the end, dragged down by the subsequent soppy I Got You, it’s simply too little too late.
* I Bet
* Kiss & Tell
* One Woman Army
Listen: ‘Jackie’ is available now.