CIARA – BEAUTY MARKS
“The scars that we get from the obstacles we face in life are actually our Beauty Marks” quotes Ciara on her Instagram page of Beauty Marks Entertainment (BME), her new established record label that represents her seventh studio album with the same name. Released four years after sixth LP ‘Jackie’ from 2015, Ciara yet restarts her career with own management, carrying the project in her own hands, representing confidence after rocky roads. Even though her career start couldn’t be any better: Three debut hit singles between ‘04 and ‘05 rolled the carpet out for her, starting off with ‘Goodies’ (feat. Petey Pablo) and the 2004 album of the same name, continuing with hit songs ‘1, 2 Step’ (feat. Missy Elliott) and ‘Oh’ (feat. Ludacris). Similar success was followed with ‘Ciara: The Evolution’, her second album from ‘06 including lead single ‘Get Up’ – the soundtrack song of the first ‘Step Up’ film starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan. ‘The Evolution’ boosted her career further with the support of highlight-singles like ‘Promise’ and ‘Like A Boy’ (where she switches gender stigmas in its music video). This made Ciara an individual in Crunk&B, an established music style of Crunk mixed with contemporary R&B.
While Ciara scored another funky hit with Justin Timberlake (‘Love Sex Magic’) in 2009, the supporting album ‘Fantasy Ride’ slowly lost back-up from label Jive as they were not happy with the sales, with 2010’s ‘Basic Instinct’ being left even more in the dark when Ciara single-handedly paid $100,000 from her own pocket for the music video of single ‘Gimmie Dat’ and another tens of thousands of dollars for promotion due to lack of label support. She then eventually asked for a release from Jive, reloading her career with new record label Epic for the 2013 eponymous release ‘Ciara’ (including R&B jam ‘Body Party’), and two years later releasing album ‘Jackie’ in 2015. Now – four years after her last studio release – Ciara finally decided to open a new chapter in own label form – having the creative control she aimed for and literally showing off her ‘Beauty Marks’ as the title of the album suspects.
Ciara already starts off with her new found confidence in album opener ‘I Love Myself’. The track features Macklemore and offers a mixed up beat – slow then fast, guitary to piano, clarifying in the lyrics that ‘The best thing I could ever do for me is love myself’. Then, in high speed, Ciara shows her capability and signature moves in ‘Level Up’, the official first single that was released in July 2018. The fast and club-ready hip-hop track offers Nicki Minaj flavors – showing off Ciara’s inner finest – because a Ciara album would not be a Ciara album without some crazy and uptempo club banger. Similar tempo is offered in ‘Dose’: A jammer for Spring break, the loud trumpets remind of Missy Elliott songs like ‘We Run This’ or ‘Pep Rally’, and could even pass as a Superbowl anthem. The bossy attitude thereafter continues in ‘Girl Gang’ where she, together with feature Kelly Rowland, makes the club hot with groovy vibes. The vocals of the two ladies work very well, taking turns like in a tennis match, and with their similar voices sometimes make it unclear if either Ciara or Kelly take over a verse. Nevertheless, both play their part as a role play, making nods to Cyndi Lauper in between the lyrics: ‘Had to pull up with my troop, had to pull up with the you/Girls just wanna have fun/No, they wanna have funds/stackin’ up revenue.’
While Ciara is known for staying in her lane of music, ‘Beauty Marks’ does like to experiment with different genres, and this time around even noticeable Caribbean and Latin impacts. Songs like ‘Freak Me’ still show urban flavors (with the help of the rap of Tekno) but borrow tropical sounds, just like ‘Na Na’ giving Spanish feels with romantic guitar strings: Sumer-esque Latin influences with urban beats. This is underlined with ‘Set’, one of the highlights of the album, where Middle Eastern sound effects create some great danceable, fast and energetic beats with a ‘who’s the boss?’ attitude.
As much as she likes to show her tough side, former singles from her career like ‘And I’ from her debut in 2004, or ‘Body Party’ from 2013 show that Ciara allows herself to express her sensual side to the public, which is not different in her new album: The sensual ‘Greatest Love’, released before the album release in February 2019, shares old school 90s vibes reminiscent to R&B singer Mýa, the only thing though that’s missing is some more interesting moments throughout the song. The romantic and dreamy ‘Trust Myself’, however, is sweet, sexy and yet mysterious, supported with relaxing R&B vibes. ‘Thinkin Bout You’ on the other hand, follows the trail of a fresh love like in the aforementioned song. A Great sing-a-long feel-good track with bass and urban pop elements, but lacks some surprising shifts here and there. Ciara then eventually ends the album with album titled ‘Beauty Marks’: “You take me as I am/And I take you as you are/With your heart in weathered hands/and the bruises of my heart […] Baby, when you take my hand/You show me that my scars are beauty marks.” The vulnerable lyrics are underlined with the music video released on May 10, 2019, where Ciara shares personal video footage of her wedding with American Football player Russell Wilson, as well as the birth of their daughter. Intimate, revealing her ‘Beauty Marks’.
For the seventh time, Ciara stays true to her musical direction and her characteristics. While the diversity of beats and tunes can be applauded, ‘Beauty marks’ sometimes misses a certain drive. Songs like ‘Thinkin Bout You’ or ‘Dose’ start off great but somehow miss startling elements throughout the songs. Another aspect is that Ciara already released 5 singles before the album release, with lead single ‘Level Up’ even ten months before. That’s not a bad thing, but these five songs are still prominent pieces of the LP which partly loses the new and fresh feels of an album release, with too many songs already known prior. However, Ciara’s hard work and effort tied in with dancy music videos, as well as highlight tracks like ‘Trust Myself’ and ‘Set’, turn a blind eye to some lesser moments in ‘Beauty Marks’. Therefore, Ciara still knows how to pump up sounds since debuting with ‘Goodies’ in the 2000s. This did not change a bit.