Ciara: Beauty Marks

Posted May 10, 2019 by in r&b



4/ 5


Producer: , , ,
Genre: R&B
Producer: J.R. Rotem, Rodney Jerkins, Jasper Cameron, Ron Cameron, Space Primates
Label: Warner, Beauty Marks
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 40:03
Release Date: 10 May 2019
Spin This: "Thinkin About You," "Level Up," "Dose," "Greatest Love"


Ciara surrounded by fun, motivation and a parade of slick sounds, glowing beats. Commitment to accessible pop and Beyoncé influences in the mix


Riffs and choruses tend to be repetitive; melodies feel tepid, safe and a little too familiar

“1, 2 Step”gets her groove back with dud-less seasoned R&B LP

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

“1, 2 Step” singer gets her groove back with dud-less seasoned R&B LP

ciara-00Somewhere between Janet Jackson and the late Aaliyah lies Ciara. The dance-R&B singer has had her share of satisfying radio heirlooms like “1, 2 Step,” “Goodies” and the Justin Timberlake duet “Love Sex Magic,” but there’s always been a slow ride to fame, leaving a feeling of unfulfilled possibilities, as if her career has sorta plateaued prematurely. But with her seventh studio album, Beauty Marks, she’s proving that there’s definitely more fuel left in the tank, especially considering this is her first album out on her own as an independent artist.

Inside the eleven-track set, Ciara sounds confident, expressing sexuality, emotion and feminine ooze like a Janet acolyte. And she’s totally surrounded by fierce talent from guest stars to household name producers, but who gives her the space to shine instead of forcing to the back as a hired hook singer. For example, “Thrift House” rapper Macklemore takes a good chunk of ownership on the opening track “I Love Myself” with a weighty presence, but Ciara is well featured throughout the experience, even if Macklemore’s edginess leaves us hungry for more of him. Thankfully, she finds the appropriate groove, a zesty danceaholic jam, immediately after the opener. With the already gold-certified “Level Up,” spunky uptempo club flares mesmerize the speakers, pulling off an unexpected earworm certain for a twerk fest. And even throughout all the booty shaking, Ciara finds a way to blend humor with sex appeal: “You know you want this yummy, yummy all in your tummy.” 

There are other delights to pick from: “Thinkin Bout You” blends melodies from Selena Gomez’s “Hands to Myself” and Janelle Monaé’s “Make Me Feel” with Maroon 5 funk. Squint a little and you can subtly hear the Commodores’ “Nightshift” in the mix. It’s a cheery tune, a little repetitive, but accessible gleeful pop nevertheless. And “Trust Myself,” also notoriously repetitive, is so up the alley of pure Janet pop. 

There’s no escaping the influence of Queen Bey on the music landscape, something that’s evident on this round. She plays it up across the one-two punch of “Girl Gang” and “Dose.” The formerly mentioned exploits the fun from Beyoncé’s “Formation” on the saucy chorus (“Girl gang, girl gang, squad goals, bang bang/Sauced up, sauced up, dripping, ring ring”) and even invites Kelly Rowland in on the fun. And there’s the latter, which ushers in Drumline drum beats a la “Lose My Breath” and the presence of beatmaster Rodney Darkchild Jerkins. And even with the big bass, funky beats on what feels like sex in clubland, Ciara finds a way to squeeze in some self-empowerment and female power in the face of adversity: “When you fall, just get back up again.” 

By the time the album hits the midway point, Ciara loses some of her poise. “Na Na” never really materializes, playing like a highly filtered “No Lie.” And the Tekno-featured “Freak Me,” a reggaeton tune plays to the narrative that everything in modern R&B and trendy rhythmic pop sounds so much alike. It’s nice to toss in between Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” and Janet’s “Made for Now” (or anything else of that pedigree), but it doesn’t exactly elevate the conversation. But she tries to rebound, thanks to the intimate piano-heavy title cut ballad and “Greatest Love,” a joyous revisit to ‘80s R&B keyboard programming a la Keith Sweat on Lisa Fischer “How Can I Ease the Pain.” 

Beauty Marks, her first set on her own label and distributed through Warner Bros Records’ independent arm (Alternative Distribution Alliance), feels like a much-needed triumph for Ciara, an appetizing collection her catalog desperately needed. It’s a journey that’s executed like a satisfying return to form and a sweet appeal to contemporary R&B roots, swaying better than the darker Jackie (2015). And sure, eleven tracks feels a little bit brief, but there aren’t really any duds in the fray, making out to be a worthy casual listen and an even greater buffet for return visits. It’s almost mouth-dropping knowing it took her independence from power execs and a highly publicized breakup from Future to pull off an album this satisfying. 


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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