Sean Fennessey

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Ciara's Fantasy Ride: Um, So, Where Is It?

Ciara feat. Justin Timberlake: "Love Sex Magic"
from the forthcoming Fantasy Ride


Ciara feat. Young Jeezy: "Never Ever"
from the forthcoming Fantasy Ride


Ciara feat. T-Pain: "Go Girl"
from the forthcoming Fantasy Ride


Ciara feat. Ludacris: "High Price"
from the forthcoming Fantasy Ride


Ciara: "Work"
from the forthcoming Fantasy Ride


Ciara appeared on the cover of VIBE's October 2008 issue. That was six months ago. Her then-manager, Philiana Williams, visited the VIBE offices in June 2008. She came with four tracks from her client's forthcoming album, Fantasy Ride, including the above "High Price" and "Work," produced by Tricky Stewart and The-Dream, and Danja respectively. Fantasy Ride was pitched as three-disc set, comprised of Groove City, Crunktown, and Kingdom of Dance, each disc representing a different side of the singer's personality. From where we sat, each disc represented the only side of Ciara: dancing. Still, the berserk "Work" and psycho-opera "High Price" blew away many members of our staff, myself included, and the two-time cover girl was on her way to her third.

One year later, Ciara has changed managers (to Justin Timberlake's famously savvy Johnny Wright), ditched the three-disc conceit, and released three unsuccessful singles, all above. The latest, "Love Sex Magic" comes courtesy producers Timberlake and The Ys. J.T. has been spending more time producing these days, often borrowing Timbaland's disco slither, if not his bottom-heavy percussion. This song is no exception; it's all swirl, no punch. Ciara, singing in a pinched soprano, offers little personality. Gone is the warm, sensual meow from 2007's "Promise" replaced with robo-diva, late-period Janet Jackson chat-singing.

"Promise" producer, Polow Da Don, reunited with the singer for "Never Ever," her second attempt at a hit, but that wasn't the one either. To say re-appropriating Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' 1972 "If You Don't Know Me By Now" for the chorus was a mistake is to understate things. And though Jeezy shows up to add a little oomph (Polow seems to be the only pop/R&B producer he's comfortable with) there's no there there. It stalled at no. 72 on Billboard's Hot 100.

The first, officially-released single, "Go Girl" made more sense in its original incarnation, "Hood Girl." But it was softened to the head-scratching "Go Girl," a phrase that failed to catch on. The song--classic T-Pain bounce, a soft-sheen sequel to Chris Brown's "Kiss Kiss"--was catchy enough to land at 69 on our 80 Best of '08. But despite that, an expensive-looking video and some unfortunate attempts to integrate Rihanna's cold, vamping strut into her oeuvre, the song peaked at 78.

And there's been a whole lot more: According to my iPod, 19 potential album tracks have been leaked into the world since last summer. Last week the album was bumped again--for the 8th time, by my count--from April 7th to May 5th. I can remember nearly a year ago, hearing "High Price" for the first time, feeling like CiCi might have a new school Rhythm Nation in her. What a difference a year makes.

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