After a lengthy break on the bench, ‘TGJ Replay’ is back!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ segments, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest retrospective segment - a written quest, if you will, to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits. Today we roll down memory lane to Urban princess Ciara‘s criminally underrated album ‘Fantasy Ride’…
Ciara Princess Harris had seen her first two albums establish her as one of Urban music’s ‘must see acts’. With #1 singles and stage-blazing performances to boot, the success of her platinum-selling sophomore set ‘The Evolution’ put even more pressure on her to deliver when it came to her junior album.
To ensure she met expectations, Harris employed an all-star team of songwriters and producers including Danja, Darkchild, Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Dr. Luke, Polow Da Don, Tricky Stewart, and most notably, The Dream (who was still very much enjoying the success of his efforts with Ci’s R&B/pop contemporary Beyonce and her hit single ‘Single Ladies’).
What was birthed from those sessions was indeed an evolution from the Atlantan songstress. Christened ‘Fantasy Ride’, the album proved itself a sonic rollercoaster – an eclectic mix of futuristic R&B seasoned with Urban flavoured rock, pop, and electronica. The evidence of this was first spotted from the album’s first offering ‘Go Girl’ featuring the time’s “it-collaborator” T-Pain.
Fans watched and couldn’t help but say ‘Go Girl’ after seeing Cici break it down in that now classic office scene – a standout performance from an overall glossy reassurance that she had indeed ‘arrived’.
Yes, despite mixed reviews from critics, minimal promotion, and no “official release”, the song did manage to score Hot 100 placement and would later prove itself a modest hit. Undeterred, the abdicated Crunk N’ B royal tapped fellow Atlantan Young Jeezy and pressed forward with ‘Never Ever’ - ‘Fantasy Ride’s official first single.
Performing better than it’s ‘Go Girl’ predecessor by peaking at #66, like ‘Girl’, the minimal promotion that accompanied the ‘Never’ saw it meet an unfortunately similar fate.
With hope almost lost for the project, fans feared Ciara’s ‘Fantasy Ride’ was turning more into “Nightmare’s Journey”. That is, until pop superstar Justin Timberlake assisted the R&B princess on their spicy cut ‘Love, Sex, and Magic’.
‘Love Sex Magic’
The duo’s chemistry in ‘Magic’ appeared to be the potion the project needed to re-energize public interest. Soaring to #10, the funky number would not only lend one of Ciara’s most memorable video performances, but also her last top 10 hit on Billboard Hot 100.
When we peruse the video collection of the song’s live renditions, we see why listeners fell in love:
‘Love, Sex, & Magic’ (live at Kimmel)
With just enough ammunition, Ciara turned the ignition key on ‘Fantasy Ride’ in May 2009. Greeted with overall pleasant critical review, the album gave the songstress her third top 3 debut when it debuted at #3 to the tune of 81k sold first week.
Admittedly, the sales – which would ring admirable in today’s sales climate – signaled what some feared was a declining interest in the R&B starlet. And, when fingers started to get pointed at who was to blame, a certain Terius ‘The Dream’ Nash found himself at the top of hit lists (a feat repeated during Mariah Carey‘s ‘Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel’ era).
Criminally underrated on the commercial front, the album would swiftly ride off charts despite being assisted with jaw-dropping visuals like ‘Work’ – her supersonic reconnection with ’1,2 Step’ co-star Missy Elliott.
Landing the songstress only one Grammy nomination for ‘Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals’, ‘Fantasy Ride’ would send Ciara on the road toward reworking her sound and rebuilding her brand. A feat since accomplished as evidenced by her 2013 self-titled fifth album.
Alas, we can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had ‘Fantasy’ received the promotional attention it truly deserved. It’s crisp sonic and visual packaging undoubtedly showcased the work of one of the genre’s premier live performers, yet, as time has proven, discernible talent is probably the smallest component in the equation of music industry success these days.
Without a machine to push, strategic placements, and the right “friendships” built, commercial relevance can often be daunting. Nevertheless, we ode Ciara’s ‘Fantasy Ride’ for the gem that it was. We still bump ‘Go Girl’ and ‘Like A Surgeon’ on the regular, but you tell us: