I think it’s time to clear the air.
Despite what you’ve heard, I was a big Ashanti fan during her original run. It was hard not to be – in the early 00s, the Princess of R&B was everywhere, dropping hit singles all over there place and fueling Murder Inc’s impressive run on top. However, today I can admit that there have always been, um, flaws in her game.
And I guess that’s where the WHY YOU HATE ASHANTI?! stuff comes from. But hey, I can like an artist and still be truthful with my critiques. That’s part of being an unbiased reviewer.
Nostalgia can be a funny thing. So let’s look back at Ashanti’s discography with fresh ears to see how those hits hold up today as we rank her LPs from bottom to top. As usual, album quality, consistency, and impact on the genre helped determined placements and I’m skipping her compilations and Christmas album. Trust me, you don’t want me to rank that Christmas album.
Ashanti has had her share of hits and misses but those hits have lasted a lifetime.
5. Chapter II (2003)
Soul In Stereo rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Edd said: Sweet lord in heaven. It’s safe to call Ashanti’s sophomore effort a commercial success – it hit No. 1 on the charts, sold over a million copies and yielded two top 10 Billboard singles. But creatively, this one was a hot mess. Paper thin vocals, a ridiculously long runtime and momentum-halting skits really put the brakes on this one. Playa, this one was rough.
Forgotten favorites: “Breakup 2 Makeup,” “I Found Lovin’,” “Carry On”
4. Braveheart (2014)
Soul In Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5
Edd said: Y’all remember Ashanti’s 2014 comeback album? Well, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. It should have been her chance to bring something new to patiently-awaiting fans. Instead, it’s just the same ol’ Ashanti we’ve had for years – same hot beats, same questionable vocals and hollow lyrics. Not much to this one.
Forgotten favorites: “Scars,” “Nowhere,” “Runaway”
3. Concrete Rose (2004)
Soul In Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5
Edd said: Concrete Rose is pretty interesting – after two albums that flirted with more mainstream pop sounds, Ashanti did a 180 and went all moody on us. The darker sound was a great idea in theory, giving us production that is much more daring than her earlier efforts. However, the results were still mixed. Like its processor, the album drags on much too long with way too much filler. And those flat vocals don’t do any favors either. The second half of the album had a lot of potential though, giving it an advantage over its predecessor, the dreaded Chapter II.
Forgotten favorites: “Don’t Leave Me Alone,” “Freedom,” “Wonderful Remix”
2. Ashanti (2002)
Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Edd said: OK, now y’all are finally giving me something to work with. Here’s the thing about Ashanti’s celebrated debut – the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia have skewed the reputation of this one a bit. It’s home to her biggest hits, no doubt, but she’s also plagued by some of the issues that would haunt many of her later albums – shaky vocals and juvenile songwriting. It’s Ashanti’s biggest and most beloved release by far but not her best. That honor goes to…
Forgotten favorites: “Movies,” “Rescue,” “Scared”
1. The Declaration (2008)
Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5
Edd said: Six years into her career, Ashanti quietly made the best album of her career. Thanks to the help of veterans like Babyface and Jermaine Dupri, along with frequent collaborators like 7 Aurelius, Ashanti finally gets it right – songs that fit her range (no more strained oversinging), much more consistent songwriting and very little filler. Obviously it lacked the hits and high profile of her more famous works but it’s easily her best LP and proof that hard work finally paid off.
Forgotten favorites: “Things You Make Me Do,” “Struggle,” “Good Good”
What are your favorite Ashanti albums? Furious that I didn’t rank her debut No. 1? Talk about it below.