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"Ciara's Basic Instinct album is in stores right now. Go get it, it makes the ultimate holiday weed plate, the ultimate holiday coaster. You can use the CD insert to clean plaque out of your teeth." — "Charlamagne Tha God," The Breakfast Club Morning Show
Sometimes, we loathe artists for their failures more than their successes. Ciara Princess Harris made us a promise in 2004 by reanimating Aaliyah's R&B-tomboy strut in the form of a round-the-way Riverdale girl. She oozed post-adolescent sex appeal but coyly kept a lid on it while sporting an athletic body and agile dance moves. Over the course of four albums and six years, though, CiCi went from teasing us with her Goodies to shoving them down our throats: Remember that nude Vibe cover shoot in 2008 and her too-sexy-for-BET video "Ride"? (Who gets naked for Vibe? And how raunchy do you have to be for BET to ban you?) While part of it was likely a self-conscious attempt to combat those erroneous drag-queen rumors that dogged her for years, it was also a desperate overreaction to new chicks on the block (Rihanna, Keri Hilson) and slipping record sales with each subsequent release, culminating in the 2010 flop Basic Instinct. In a PR makeover-turned-disaster, her harmless boo Bow Wow got the axe for 50 Cent, while CiCi began palling around with the likes of Kim Kardashian. If CiCi's tryst with 50 left her image somewhat sullied, gallivanting with professional knob-hopper Kim Kardashian only earned her more stamps of approval in her passport to Slutville.
True story: I spotted Ciara last year at one of Sade's sold-out Soldier of Love concerts at Atlanta's Philips Arena. She tried to hide behind dark shades and a stone-cold countenance as she breezed through the food court followed by a beefy escort. Sadly, it worked. Once the city's brightest hope for uncontested pop&B princess, she could now coast through a hometown crowd without conjuring even a sideways glance or veiled whisper. I immediately recalled the non-encounter upon hearing the recent news of Ciara's forthcoming album, One Woman Army, scheduled for this year release on Epic, where her original label godfather L.A. Reid now sits at the helm. It's a key reunion because her career suffered most during the time away from Reid's proven marketing machine. Based on the early promo photos, she's turned down the sluttiness for something sexier yet equally disarming. And while her first single, the dance-floor burner "Sweat," isn't a No. 1 stunner, it subtly suggests that CiCi knows she'll have to work to regain our trust. — Rodney Carmichael
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