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Ciara - 'The Evolution'
(Friday April 13, 2007 2:58 PM )

Released on 09/04/07
Label: RCA

It's becoming something of a habit for Atlantan siren Ciara to make promises her albums just can't deliver. Heralded as "The First Lady of Crunk&B;", her Jazze Pha and Lil Jon produced 2004 debut, "Goodies", pledged a musical revolution which never actually materialised, offering instead a couple of taut club tracks and a lot of standard issue R&B; love to clear the dancefloor. Now the follow-up has her claiming to have masterminded the advancement of modern music.

The first clue that she might be overstating "The Evolution"'s forward-thinking credentials comes via the list of collaborators. While others desperately seek a new beat messiah to stir increasingly stagnant waters, Ciara's trying to wring the last drops of creativity out of Pharrell Williams and Rodney Jerkins, and adding to the already overloaded plate of Black Eyed Pea Will.I.Am.

Nevertheless, Ciara insists her second album is both a personal and musical leap forward; despite bearing a striking resemblance to its predecessor with the handful of taut club tracks and excess of standard issue R&B.; "When I listen to the radio, I feel like music is so different to what it used to be", she muses on the first of four interludes through which she imparts her painful philosophy on the evolution of music, dance, fashion and herself. "And because of that, I was inspired to do something different this time around: the evolution of music", she informs before smooching, with the irony flying straight over her head, into "Promises"'s luscious, Prince circa 1987 groove.

If not the inspired masterpiece she thinks it is - she clearly hasn't been listening to same Janet Jackson, Aaliyah and Toni Braxton records as her collaborators - there's still plenty to recommend it. Singles "Like A Boy" and "Get Up", along with the Lil Jon collaboration "That's Right", revive the minimalist crunk grind which helped her debut sell three million copies; the uneasy mix of dogmatic beats and shimmering vocals proving just as alluring second time round.

Elsewhere, even Ciara's off the peg click-track sentiments have a high quality sheen which suggest she may yet have what it takes to achieve the iconic status she believes is her destiny. "C.R.U.S.H.", for one, slinks to a subtle sophistication and stylish club cool, which puts her on a par with the likes of Christina Milian. However, with Amerie about to raise the bar way beyond the reach of mere R&B; mortals with the release of third album "Because I Love It", "The Evolution" is good but nowhere near dynamic or forward thinking enough to put Ciara on the A-List and fulfil her boundless ambition.

    by Dan Gennoe

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