Ciara, "Ciara" (Epic Records)
The lead single from Ciara's self-titled fifth album, "Body Party," is an oozing, seductive R&B track that deserves rousing applause -- especially when the 27-year-old matches the song with daring and sensual dance moves that scream Janet Jackson, Aaliyah and others that have come before her, as she did at the recent BET Awards.
The bedroom groove is easily the best of the 11 tracks that make up "Ciara." There are others that shine, too: The bouncy "Livin' It Up," one of two songs to feature Nicki Minaj, has an empowering feel; the mid-tempo "Read My Lips" is appealing and Ciara's sweet tone rides nicely over the semi-electronic beat of "Overdose."
Still, the album doesn't feel special. While it's much better than her last two releases -- the weak "Fantasy Ride" and the subpar "Basic Instinct" -- the album is made up of fillers that have you still wondering what kind of singer Ciara is.
Like her past records, "Ciara" isn't cohesive, and instead, sporadic -- some hits here, satisfactory work there, but overall, mediocrity reigns. The album, out on Epic Records, is her first album since leaving LaFace Records, her home since she released her multiplatinum 2004 debut, the explosive "Goodies." She had hits from that album and its follow-up, "Ciara: The Evolution," but she hasn't established her own style or sound in the near-decade she's been on the scene. Ciara, the person, is still searching for Ciara, the singer.
Ciara kicked-off her new album with three different singles -- "Sweat," "Sorry" and "Got Me Good" -- that now don't appear on "Ciara," a sign of her creative struggles. The album features producers and songwriters like Rodney Jerkins, Mike WiLL Made-It, Livvi Franc and Future, her rapper-boyfriend who co-wrote and co-produced "Body Party." Hopefully, he can be the Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis to her Janet -- or she can find someone else to fill that slot.