Jackie (to be released May 4, 2015)
I’ve said it a million times — the best music is born from life’s experiences. I guarantee Ciara would second that assessment. After all, her life definitely has been a well-publicized whirlwind.
Last year this time, she gave birth to her first son but just a few months later cut off her engagement to her son’s father, the incomprehensible android known as Future. That rollercoaster fuels CiCi’s sixth album, Jackie, named after her own mother.
But don’t fret, Ciara fans. Yes she’s a mom now but by the sound of this album, Ciara’s not driving the minivan across town just yet. She’s still twerking on the hood in yoga pants.
I’ve been a huge critic of many of Ciara’s past albums because of inconsistency. They usually have one good record buried among tons of filler. On Jackie, that standout song is, of course, hit single “I Bet,” CiCi’s best song in years. Now, if you ask Jermaine Dupri, it’s nothing but a “U Got It Bad” clone — and lord knows the sonic similarities are evident — but it’s still a pretty strong anthem for unappreciated women.
Don’t expect for the rest of Jackie to follow the sober lead of “I Bet.” This is a Ciara joint, so you gotta get your back up off the wall.
The title track (and album opener) is the typical turn-up track in the vein of Beyonce’s “7/11” and it’s a bit too unfocused and screechy for my tastes. “That’s How I’m Feelin'” works much better — a hyperactive dance track where Ciara doesn’t get lost in Polow da Don’s uptempo production. Pitbull drops off his usual lazy thirst-trap verse (I swear he writes his bars while staring at chicks on Snapchat) but Missy Elliott balances the scales with a more memorable 16.
Ciara cuts her losses after a bad relationship on “Fly,” but later finds love so good that she’s can’t keep it to herself on “Kiss & Tell.” “Dance Like We’re Making Love” is pretty self-explanatory — no matter the topic, Ciara is all about keeping your pulse racing.
That’s even true for the pounding “Lullaby.” Just looking at the title, I expected it to be an ode to her son. Nah, playa, this ain’t about the baby, it’s about bae: “I don’t mind being your freak/I’m gonna knock it out, don’t need to count no sheep.” Ciara’s in MILF mode for sure.
Despite the surprisingly solid collection of dance tracks, Ciara still has trouble overcoming her usual shortcomings. “I Got You,” the real ode to her son, is heartfelt but Ciara’s paper-thin vocals just can’t carry the weight of the song. Other tracks either suffer from blandness (“Give Me Love”) or production issues (the screamy ad-libs of “Stuck on You”).
I didn’t expect much from Jackie besides “I Bet” but Ciara delivers a surprisingly solid collection of dance tracks, easily besting her previous album.
Motherhood is suiting Ciara just fine.
Best tracks: “I Bet,” “That’s How I’m Feelin’,” “Kiss & Tell”
3.5 stars out of 5