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Ciara has experienced several commercial struggles during the last 2 years. Her 2009 release, ‘Fantasy Ride’, performed poorly on the charts, selling less than 200,000 units in the US to date, despite producing the top 10 hit ‘Love Sex Magic (Ft. Justin Timberlake)’.
Additionally, instead of being praised for attempting to diversify her sound, Ciara endured a backlash from her listeners who argued that she had abandoned her Urban roots. So how has Ciara decided to respond to her critics? By giving them exactly what they want – a return to basics.
‘Basic Instinct’ features the Atlanta entertainer unleashing her sexuality over 11 bass-heavy tracks crafted by the likes of Tricky Stewart, The-Dream, Kenneth ‘Soundz’ Coby, Ester Dean, Tyler Williams, Nelson Kyle and Hilton Humphery. However, Ciara’s attempts at reclaiming her title as the Princess of Crunk N’B prove to be more lukewarm than the audio fire that some would desire.
Surprisingly, the strongest songs on ‘Basic Instinct’ are the singles. The Soundz-produced ‘Gimme Dat’ provides ample opportunities for listeners to put their dance skills to the test as they attempt to keep up with the high-octane beat and pulsating bass. Although the record may not have been the best choice for a radio release, it definitely sets the pace for the rest of the LP.
Moreover, Ciara reunites with one of her favourite collaborators, Ludacris, successfully recreating the chemistry of their worldwide hit, ‘Oh’, with the help of the sensual melodies and suggestive lyrics on ‘Ride’. Even ‘Speechless’, which was initially underwhelming because of The-Dream’s predictable and redundant productions skills, proved to be quite enjoyable after several listens; a ‘grower’ in every sense of the word.
Nonetheless, there is nothing redeeming about the weakest song on the album, ‘Girls Get Your Money’. Lyrically reminiscent of an elementary school playground game, the track is nothing more than uninspired filth. The limitations of Ciara’s vocal ability could not have been made more obvious as the tone of her voice made the record even more painful to bear. In fact lines like “they always want to holla but they ain’t got no dollars” almost require the song to be renamed ‘Girls Get Your Money And Buy Another Album’.
Other missteps on the LP include ‘Yeah I Know’ and ‘You Can Get It’. A glance at the production credits for the latter is not needed as The Dream’s lack of variation is easily detectable while listening to the song’s melody which is striking similar to his own ‘Mr. Yeah’ from his ‘Love vs. Money’ LP.
Still, all is not lost for Ciara as there are a few album cuts that are almost as enjoyable as the selected singles. The mastered version of the future club anthem ‘Turn It Up (Ft. Usher)’ and the infectious ‘Heavy Rotation’ demonstrate that she has not fully abandoned her quest for mainstream success on the Pop formats; mixing Dance and R&B for favourable results.
Other gems include the uniquely interesting ‘Wants For Dinner’ which includes unmistakable Reggae influences and the sensual mystique of ‘I Run It’ display Ciara’s ability to manipulate her voice to various compositions. She may not have the most expansive vocal range yet she certainly knows how to operate within her limits.
In the end, Ciara has put forward a mild yet respectable body of work with ‘Basic Instinct’. What is most apparent about the album is that the songs that featured contributions from producers other than just Tricky and The-Dream were clearly superior; another glaring example that variation is the key to success.
Undoubtedly, however, this project would have been better suited to an August release, as she originally planned, as it reflects a Summer vibe and it may be lost in the shuffle of the various other albums due this December. Nevertheless, only time will tell if this will be the hit that she deserves.