Friday, August 9, 2013

W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. Post 10: Ciara

This is a series dedicated to women who despite success in the U.S. Music Industry, have est. a very complicated image for themselves.

Round 10 of this series goes to ATL based One Woman Army (Before some jerkoff leaked tracks or something forcing a name change to) Ciara. *FUN FACT: She was named after a perfume.*

Aylin Zafar of BuzzFeed wrote of a virtually unknown way to pimp albums through the site, Groupon. [] Even with this, Ciara was mocked for something other artists have done through Groupon.
Jasmine A. Grant of Juicy Magazine's website wrote of her image and one of her bitter enemies, Rihanna. []

Both of these add up to Ciara's image as someone who had a chance, fizzled and is trying her best to recapture her mid-2000s glory.

Ciara first emerged as the ATL "Princess or First Lady of Crunk&B" with her 2004 debut effort, Goodies. The title track for all of its seemingly glib content, did hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, the track was also slammed in a VH1 and Blender Magazine joint effort, 40 Most Awesomely Bad Dirrty Songs [albeit in a short segment, "Most Awesomely Bad Dirrty #1 Hits"] Personally, the song had a kickass instrumental to it and Ciara is a decent singer. The video however did highlight Ciara's dance moves which is something that for better and worse has been something she can fall back on.

Cut to her second single, "1,2 Step" featuring Missy Elliott. Personally this was an improvement over "Goodies". "1,2 Step" per Ciara's recurring theme showed off her choreography but seemed to gloss over the fact that outside of that she was being required to sing. Like I said, she's a decent singer and as Grant puts it [in a sense], "neither she or Rihanna are known for their vocals". The pure infectiousness of the song helped it reach #2 on the Hot 100.

Her third major single, "Oh" featuring Ludacris was personally the best song she put out during her "Crunk&B" days. The sound of "Oh" was to be a little more suggestive than the Janet Jackson inspired upbeat tempos of "Goodies" and "1,2 Step". The song eventually peaked at #2 on the Hot 100.
The album peaked at #3 on the Hot 100.

Two problems here:

1. The fourth and final single from the album, "And I" proved a troubling trope for Ciara; one bad song and it can go to shit quickly. Here it is in perspective; 3 previous songs that peaked in the top 3 of the Hot 100 with the debut single hitting #1. Nothing to be pissed off about. "And I" peaked at #96 on the Hot 100.

2. The fact that she was pigeonholed early on in her career as the premiere artist of a defunct niche, "Crunk&B". Her next set of albums would have to reveal a side to Ciara that proved she was more than a defunct niche.

Her sophomore effort, Ciara: The Evolution, seemed to build on that mission. The debut single from the album was "Get Up" ft. Chamillionaire and served as part of the soundtrack for the movie Step Up. That alone assured success along with the music video, which despite having the sex appeal portion of the end all be all 'How to Have a Prosperous Singing Career" formula*

*"How to Have a Prosperous Singing Career"

Singing ability + Controversy + Sex appeal = Prosperous singing career

Still seemed to paint the picture that Ciara was just a dancer who got lucky enough to fit singing lessons into her schedule. Incidentally enough, the song peaked at #7 on the Hot 100.
Then one of her most recognizable hits and arguably her signature song was released. "Promise" was marketed as a "sultry" song. The video certainly was as memorable as her others by then (As she proceeds to hump a chair; or give a chair a lap dance; tomato, tuh-mah-toe) but by "Promise" her commercial performance on the Hot 100 was slipping; the song peaked at #11 there, but went to #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.

By her third single from the album, "Like A Boy", her commercial performance continued to slip. Peaking at #19 on the Hot 100 and #6 on the  Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, "Like A Boy" would attain success for its video. Ciara's dancing for all of its interloping of her hopes to be recognized as a singer, was something that had people tuning into the music video blocks, to see her kickass dancing. "Like A Boy" was her most well received video [as of late garnering 60,826,995 views on VEVO; still her highest view count to date.]
Even that couldn't save her commercial performance by the time the fourth and final single from the album, "Can't Leave 'em Alone" ft. 50 Cent, the divide between Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop placings was evidently clear. The song peaked at #40 and #10 respectively.
Despite the seemingly pitiful placings the singles did, Ciara; The Evolution, debuted at #1 proving that despite the odds, the sex appeal portion of the aforementioned equation did prove to work in Ciara's favor.

Then came the one ride that her career is recovering from; her third album, Fantasy Ride.

The album had 4 major singles released; only the 3rd and 4th being the recognizable ones, but all 4 will be measured to show just how poor the album would be received.

First, was the single "Go Girl" ft. T-Pain. Admittedly by 2009, T-Pain was still a bit of a force in the business. Despite that, the song peaked at #78 on the Hot 100; #88 on the Pop 100 and went to Japan on the Japan Hot 100. International success is one thing, but if U.S. success alludes you...O_O.
Second, was "Never Ever" ft. Young Jeezy. As with T-Pain, Young Jeezy was one of the emerging stars of the Hip-Hop world by then. Although not as bad chart wise as "Go Girl", "Never Ever" #66 on the Hot 100, but did peak at #9 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

The third single, and first top 10 Hot 100 hit since "Get Up", "Love Sex Magic" ft. Justin Timberlake (For all its titular flaws) proved to be the type of collaborative effort Ciara needed to regain some ground in the U.S. The video for the song also helped spread buzz as...well...she gets a little whore-ish with him. At one point in the video, she licks his ear O_O and pretty much reverse straddles him, but even I liked how the song sounded.
Fourth, was "Work" ft. Missy Elliott. This one is recognizable mainly because it was used in a commercial that Ciara was in, pimping the LG Chocolate cell phone. Let's just say the song didn't chart in the U.S. at all.

Even though it went to #3, Fantasy Ride, sold only 195,000 copies.
In perspective, Silver takes 100,000; Gold takes 500,000; Platinum takes 1,000,000; Diamond takes 10,000,000. That means the album only went Silver. Her previous efforts were 2,748,000 and 1,326,000 respectively. O_O

The commercial dissonance didn't end there.

Her fourth effort, Basic Instinct, would go on to sell 116,000 copies...and peak at #44 on the Billboard 200. [*screaming bloody "murther"*] The only real single that made any impact was "Ride" ft. Ludacris. The single peaked at #42 on the Hot 100 but went to #3 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. Audio wise, this was one of Ciara's best singles to date and compared to her other efforts, is one of the few that ages the best.
However, the video for the song created buzz and controversy that she inadvertently needed.
The video is hailed as being Ciara's sexiest to date; she rides a mechanical bull; she gyrates suggestively and dances her ass off.
Yet, the video was considered too racy for BET. Yes, the same BET that had "BET After Dark" BET. Around the time "Ride" was released, Trey Songz had his songs, "Neighbors Know My Name" and "I Invented Sex" on BET rotation. Translation: BET was accused of having a double standard of being ok with a dude singing and parading sex but not with a woman doing the same thing. Despite wanting to comply with an edit to her video, it was still played on MTV and VH1 and even earned this comment on YouTube...

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Pornhub is down, this video will do.
-YouTube account holder, Redstone 2008

Sadly her other singles from the album, "Speechless" and "Gimme Dat" went to #76 and #63 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, failing to capitalize on the muffin basket of press "Ride" gave.

Cut to her fifth effort, Ciara. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 selling 59,000 or so copies upon release. It sounds like pitiful album sales but in perspective, Justin Timberlake's creepy musical cousin, Robin Thicke had his most recent effort Blurred Lines go to #1 selling 177,000 copies. *Fun fact: Both of them outsold video game villain/Black Eyed Peas frontman, and his most recent effort, #willpower (Yes, he meant for a "Twitter hashtag" to be there. I know; it's fucking stupid) which to date has sold 58,000 copies in the U.S.*
The lead single, "Body Party" peaked at #22 on the Hot 100, went to #6 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts and went to #1 on the Hot Dance Club Songs charts.
The next single "I'm Out" ft. Nicki Minaj is a thing as its full commercial success has yet to be measured.

Despite Ciara's love/hate reception by mainstream audiences of late, Rachel of Autostraddle [] by way of
Saeed Jones of BuzzFeed [] write of a rather positive reception of Ciara in the LGBT community* ------------->*She actually got served court documents in the middle of her performing at a concert for L.A. Pride*
The reason the positive reception is there is because of the things that made her singing career overshadowed. Her videography, choreography and sex appeal were measured in Rachel of Autostraddle's article in a 5 video tribute. Jones measured her appreciation of Atlanta ball culture*
*Ball culture refers to a "ball"; to learn more of this facet of the LGBT community, look up the documentary Paris Is Burning on YouTube. It is the LGBT Citizen Kane.*

All in all, what made Ciara is the same thing that makes her one of many W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I.; relying on dancing, being sexy and having been labeled in a niche now defunct genre of music. Public perception of her career since then, has been...well that she's a has been. Ciara is a decent singer that at least deserves a top 10 hit on the Hot 100 again.

Next up; a woman who puts the ! in "She's the woman who's next in this series!"

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