Ciara Misses an Opportunity on 'Jackie': Album Review

Ciara
Album Review
2

Coping with an all-too public breakup often yields raw, humanizing creative boosts for music stars -- Marvin Gaye's withering Here, My Dear is the classic -example. For R&B singer Ciara, whose sexy turn-up jams have always been more style than substance, splitting with her baby's father, rapper Future, last August seemed like a ripe opportunity to finally open the emotional blinds and let people in. And sure enough, "I Bet," the first single from her sixth album Jackie, seemed to do just that. "Is that your bitch over there, giving me the ugly stare?" she sings, presumably referring to the alleged infidelity that ended their relationship.

But that's one of the few seemingly genuine moments on Jackie, which, despite being named after her mother, feels oddly impersonal. Instead, the album is mostly a robotic retread of the party-scoring fare of prior releases, but without the memorable hooks and irresistibly kinetic production. Since debuting with 2004's Goodies, Ciara, 29, has made her career on self-empowering dance scorchers and seductress anthems, and on Jackie she once again hits the club, cozies up to new beaus and thumps her chest along the way.

Jackie invokes the uptempo optimism of 2013's triumphant Ciara, but feels a little too familiar: "Hair pulled back, high heels, you gon' know about it by the end of this song," she sasses in signature fashion on "Kiss & Tell," but it's safe to assume most listeners already knew. The souped-up "One Woman Army" is Jackie's de rigueur ode to doing it yourself. Highlights "That's How I'm Feelin' " (featuring Missy Elliott and Pitbull) and "Give Me Love" target the dance floor in an effective, if somewhat mindless, fashion. When the party's over, Jackie concludes with the Diane Warren-penned "I Got You," a lullaby for Ciara's year-old son, Future Jr., but it feels out of place, saccharine and clichéd.

Maybe Ciara is at her best when her music's carefree -- but on Jackie, it sometimes seems like she doesn't care. Perhaps she was afraid to confront the realities of true heartache, or perhaps she has simply moved on. Good for her, but not as good for listeners: Jackie feels like a missed opportunity for a talented artist to connect with fans in a new way.