Much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ segments, readers of That Grape Juice know what avid music lovers we are – especially of hits past. So in a quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday we introduced a new retrospective segment – ‘TGJ Replay’.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase albums (and eras) from a library of pop music hits. Today we fast backward to R&B chanteuse Ashanti‘s tertiary release ‘Concrete Rose’…
Charged with the task of following up two blockbuster #1 albums ‘Ashanti’ and ‘Chapter II’, 2003 saw Grammy winning songbird Ashanti Douglas return to the lab to remix her uber-successful formula for what was greatly expected to be a chart-topping chapter 3. Indeed, the New York-born beauty had seen her first album greeted with the highest first week sales of a debut album for a female artist of color (a record she still holds) and her second album followed its stead soaring to the top of charts as well. In such, the path carved by its predecessors would prove a difficult one for any follow-up album to tread.
The daunt of such did not deter the ‘Rain On Me’ maestra from tapping label-head Irv Gotti and futuristic hitmaker 7 Aurelius to spearhead her new project. Christened ‘Concrete Rose’ - a nod to legendary rapper Tupac Shakur – the album would serve as Ashanti’s most artistic effort to date. Lending mixes of less radio friendly R&B than her previous releases, ‘Rose’ dripped of darker toned rhythmic numbers decorated with electronica, pop, and even rock.
It’s first fruit ‘Only U’ was set to showcase the new Ashanti…
Serving as visual evidence of Douglas’ maturity, the tune’s accompanying video served as her most glossy to date. Filled with noticeably intensified choreography and fashion forwardness, the clip roared onto video countdowns to much fanfare at the “new” Ashanti.
Charts, on the other hand, were not exactly reflecting the same as, despite aggressive promotional appearances, the song stalled at #13 – a feat then unfamiliar to the surefire chart-topper.
‘Only U’ (live)
The album would follow to what were then disappoint sales as well. Premiering at #7 on the charts with a respectable 254k sold in its first week, the album marked her lowest sales to that date.
Conversely, ‘Rose’ rolled in as a critical homerun. Hailed by many as a long-awaited signal of growth and artistic depth, ‘Concrete Rose’ also evidenced a vocal evolution. Disappointingly, all of the aforementioned were not enough to save the ‘Rose’ from its swift slide down charts.
The singer even came “out of pocket” to fund ‘Only U’s follow-up visual ‘Don’t Let Them’…
‘Don’t Let Them’
Many attribute Ashanti’s deviation from her more heavily hip-hop influenced numbers as well as the radio and visual domination of acts like Beyonce, J. Lo and co.’s with ‘Rose’ not resonating with fans. The latter’s musical uprising, ironically, was contributed to by the ‘Foolish’ singer herself.
Be that as it may, while the efforts that followed ‘Rose’ have not yielded its sales numbers, one cannot take from Ashanti her “little engine that could” mentality nor the leaps and bounds she’s made vocally since her height ten years ago.
As we await more news on her forthcoming album ‘BraveHeart’, we hope she revisits ‘Rose’ for inspiration to be daring on the sonic front and visually captivating with clips like ‘Only U’.
Tidbit: ‘Don’t Leave Me Alone’ is a TGJ fave from ‘Concrete Rose’. What’s yours?
‘Don’t Leave Me Alone’