Ciara seems to have been one of those female artists who has wavered in and out of the spotlight (à la Mya) since her 2004 debut, Goodies. Subsequent albums, Ciara: The Revolution, Fantasy Ride and Basic Instinct seemed to lack the ability to capture the same magic as Goodies, in spite of notable commercial performances. It wasn't until asking Jive to drop her from their label in the wake of artistic differences/discrepant views on the promotion of her album that Ciara could finally start over again and reinvent herself. Perhaps that's why simply calling her fifth album Ciara is a succinct and pertinent decision. Cover for Ciara's self-titled album.

"I'm Out" sets the tone for the empowered, take control attitude that dominates the album. Telling the story of a woman who has just come out of a breakup and is finally ready to find the love and affection she deserves, the track makes a great choice for Ciara's second single from the album. Appropriately, the second song on the album is entitled "Sophomore." Gritty and gutteral, there is something about "Sophomore" that is very similar to the vibe of a Rihanna track--think "Birthday Cake" meets "Cockiness (I Love It)." The first single from Ciara, "Body Party," takes the pace down a notch with slow, sultry vocals that sample from INOJ's "I Want to Be Your Lady Baby." The R&B flavor continues with "Keep On Lookin'". Another patent assertion of her independence, Ciara sings, "I would tell you haters to fuck off, but I'm still a lady." Yet another possible record label-related kiss off, Ciara taunts, "Boy what I got, baby you can't have."

Free.

"Read My Lips" has plenty of radio-friendly potential with its Fergie-esque backbeat (it sounds a little like 2006's "Clumsy"). The simple, fun-loving lyrics reflect a carefree summer feel as Ciara sings, "Read my lips, read my lips/Baby get up all in this." Yet again drawing Rihanna comparisons, the next track on the album finds Ciara collaborating with Future (who worked with Rihanna on Unapologetic to make "Loveeeee Song"). In Ciara's defense, however, this track has far more clout than "Loveeeee Song"--and is much less annoying to listen to. Slow tempoed and laidback, this is one of the most relaxing songs on the album apart from "Body Party."

"Body Party" promo

Visceral and early 90s Janet Jackson-esque, "Super Turnt Up" combines all the best elements of a slow and fast track. Produced with Cameron, "Super Turnt Up" showcases the artistic harmony between the two. And although the majority of the songs on Ciara are produced by the chanteuse herself, this particular offering reveals Ciara's seasoned dexterity when it comes to producing a flawless backbeat. "DUI" follows with an eerie, sinister opening that transitions into a sensual, almost 70s porno background. After all, it wouldn't be a Ciara album without a bit of hypercharged sexuality. Singing, "I might have to pull over/I bet the law would arrest me if they knew what I was thinkin'.../So put them handcuffs on me, keep talkin' to me dirty," Ciara shows us that her Petey Pablo influence is never too far behind.

One woman army.

The second Nicki Minaj collaboration on the album, "Livin' It Up," is, of course, another upbeat, frenetic track featuring affirmations like, "Don't know when my next meal's comin'/All I know is I've been runnin'" and "A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do/Makin' up her own rules." In this respect, there definitely has to be some sort of City High homage hidden within these lyrics. Nicki Minaj joins in with her usual brand of distinction, screaming, "See, I'm a monster/No, I'm not a Loch Ness." While the track is memorable, it doesn't quite grab you as much as "I'm Out." The final song on Ciara, "Overdose," keeps the party sentiment going with its ultra infectious musical background and frothy lyrics. As far as love/drug analogies are concerned, Ciara doesn't really have any new insight to offer, save for "I took your love/Think I took too much/I took it all, but it's not enough/Somebody call the doctor." But paired with the music, you can forgive the somewhat trite vocals and close your eyes long enough to pretend you're in Europe.

http://youtu.be/1-TTNdyIMAE

In fact, Ciara has transcended to a far more Eurodance level on this album--while still somehow managing to maintain her hip hop and R&B roots. Ciara signals a new chapter in Ciara's career (as well as in her musical growth), hopefully one that isn't likely to end any time soon.