Ciara's driving home for Christmas
Getting to grips with R&B’s most persistent mononym…
More from Jack Cullen
So first up. Here’s the new single. It’s called Got Me Good. The video is like M.I.A’s Bad Girls video bereft of any storyboarding, personality or interesting details, but she does look good in white jeans while driving a doorless 4x4. The song itself is very up-tempo, jittery and disobedient, but is very catchy after a few listens will no doubt sound great piped through the ceiling of your pool house, that's if you’re a horny gay teenage son of a Beverley Hills millionaire (you are right?):
As you can see - Ciara is copying Janet Jackson a LOT here. But unlike Keri Hilson, this is no homage. Ciara has genuinely looked at Gaga’s capitalisation on Madonna and thought “Right. Who can I use to plaige my way to the stage?” Ciara has sited Janet Jackson before as a "major influence" and she even appeared on Janet’s album Discipline. Still, find me an R&B album that Ciara hasn’t popped up on. She’s got a skeleton key for Universal Music and a habit for hiding behind wheelie chairs at night, contributing the occasional “Ooh” after Blige has locked up. Then on Saturdays she disguises as a cleaner at EMI, pretending to dust platinum discs every time Timbaland turns around suspiciously.
The new single comes with this other insane video from Ciara’s YouTube channel, showing her celebrate her birthday by watching the official video being played on a billboard in Times Square. It’s like X Factor guest star hype-titles meets My Sweet Sixteenth. It's ridiculous:
Who thinks those kids in the street might be dancing to something else? But let's just pretend, for Ciara's sake, that they’re wetting themselves over Ciara's new song and not LMFAO.
Despite looking like a hot 40-year-old Ciara is actually still in her mid-twenties. So who are we to laugh at her achievements? While I was revising for my A-Levels she was bunking off college having her lyrics revised at Missy Elliott's condo. And you probably didn’t know this but Ciara’s had two studio albums out in the last three years.
Most journos over here leave Ciara alone though and her success in the UK is dismal compared to her status in the US. Brits are unsure how to pronounce her name (FYI like Sierra), it’s too risky to predict whether her releases will be hits, her Wikipedia page is a bit of a mess and there’s always a more important email to read from Rihanna’s team.
Perhaps Ciara’s face isn’t distinctive enough to be a proper chart topper either. She’s absolutely beautiful but in a kind of melty way. I don’t envy the merchandise artist who has to edit Ciara's face down into a recognisable, timeless monolith à la Che Guevara, Aaliyah, or even Jessie J, you just couldn’t do it. Big stars need big faces, like Myleene Klass (her face is actually an M&S bar code, you can scan it in). Just like if you set out to draw Cher Lloyd with a felt tip it always ends up looking like the Starbucks logo. Not good. Although to Ciara’s credit, she's tried to make nutty brown hair her thing for about seven years.
As one of the only people in the UK who actually went out and bought a copy of Ciara’s last album Basic Instinct I feel fully entitled to criticise her like this. Like most people I criticise, it’s because I want more from them, they're not fulfilling their potential. When we look at the highlights of Ciara’s career – her duet Love Sex Magic with Justin Timberlake, her appearance on Missy Elliot’s Lose Control and Never Ever featuring Young Jeezy, and er yeah – that’s about it, we realise that she has real pop star potential in her. But on her own, Ciara falls short. Her signature song is probably 1, 2, Step or Goodies. Neither has any welly to it. 1, 2, Step doesn’t make any sense and Goodies sounds like a knock-off of Nelly’s Yeah, if a knock-off of a song called Yeah is even possible. They were also her first two songs which isn’t great if you’re looking for longevity.
She had a straight-to-DVD feature length movie called Mama, I Want To Sing. She also developed a cartoon character alter ego called Super C that nobody seemed to notice.
Her album Fantasy Ride from 2009 was good but massively underrated. Some of the tracks on it were great: G Is For Girl, Tell Me What Your Name Is and her brilliant ballad about a drunken night of mischief called I Don’t Remember which features the phrase “I can’t feel my face right now” (we’ve all been there, trying to fit more in than the mouth’s cavity will allow) and you’ll see how Ciara is R&B royalty. But for some reason she doesn’t gel with the charts.
In recent years she has supported Britney on her Circus tour and Rihanna on her Good Girl Gone Bad tour, and this is how the world has come to see Ciara: A good quality secondary artist. A reliable and gainfully accepted member of the R&B royal family, a sexy playlist filler, but just a little bit too innocuous to strike enough of a pop nerve to truly tipple the Apple iTunes cart.
Got Me Bodied is out now, Ciara's next album One Woman Army comes out in 2013.