Monday, June 2, 2014

Won the War: Rihanna V.S. Ciara

This is a series inspired by a tweet from perpetual lightning rod for controversy Azealia Banks when she inferred that although Michael Jackson won the battle, Prince won the war. This will be my take on which two rivals in packaging in the U.S. Music Industry, won the war in terms of longer success.

Round 2 of Won the War involves inadvertent umbrella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay spokesperson Rihanna and Ciara who is rebounding from a Fantasy Ride gone awry. When they debuted in the early/mid aughts [00s], both were initially written off as One Hit Wonders. Getting another hit under their belts in the short term was easy. Now having careers in the 2010 onward era let's figure out...

In longevity terms, who merely won the battle...and who Won the War?

As of 2014, Rihanna has 7 albums under her belt; the most recent effort being the 2012 released Unapologetic. Ciara has 5 albums to her name; the most recent, being her 2013 released self titled effort.
Here's their album peaks from highest to lowest...

- Unapologetic at #1
- Good Girl Gone Bad at #2
- Loud at #3
- Talk That Talk at #3
- Rated R at #4
- A Girl Like Me at #5
- Music of the Sun at #10

- Ciara: The Evolution at #1
- Ciara at #2
- Goodies at #3
- Fantasy Ride at #3
- Basic Instinct at #44

Due to the fact that these two have made something of a name for themselves, radio has played their songs every now and again. In terms of longevity when was their last #1 hit on the Hot 100?
*Reminder: Hot 100 ranking does matter if you're absolutely looking for a gauge of where an artist is in terms of popularity*

Rihanna had her last #1 hit with "Diamonds" from 2012 and off of her most recent album of the same year. Two years ago? Not bad.
Ciara had her last #1 hit with "Goodies"...from 2004 off of her debut of the same name...10 years ago O_O.

The last Top 10 hit? Rihanna had "Stay" going to #3 in 2013 off of her most recent album. Ciara's last Top 10 hit was "Love Sex Magic" ft. Justin Timberlake at 2009 off of her 3rd album...5 years ago. O_O.

Singing is not the only thing these two have done. Both Rihanna and Ciara have done some acting in bit parts, but guilt by association here.(because Rihanna played herself in Seth Rogen's This Is The End, I will not use this movie for her analysis.) Here's the Rotten Tomatoes scores of their movies as of June 2, 2014...

Rihanna's 2012 movie Battleship
Tomatometer [critics]: 34% at an average of 4.6 out of 10 rating
Audience: 55% at an average of 3.4 out of 5 rating

Ciara's 2012 movie That's My Boy
Tomatometer [critics]: 20% at an average of 3.4 out of 10 rating
Audience: 52% at an average of 3.3 out of 5 rating

Musically, there are naturally some weak points in an artists' career when say...a lead single doesn't go to #1 or released singles chart really low. These are the positions at the lowest of Rihanna and Ciara's careers...

Rihanna's Lowest Charting Singles
- Lowest Charting Lead Single: "Russian Roulette" at #9 on the Hot 100
- Lowest Charting Released Single: "Rockstar 101" ft. Slash at #64 on the Hot 100 [For posterity, both of these singles are from Rated R]

Ciara's Lowest Charting Singles
- Lowest Charting Lead Single: [this one was tough to determine because either way it's from Fantasy Ride but technically because this was included on the standard album] "Never Ever" ft. Young Jeezy at #66 on the Hot 100.
- Lowest Charting Released Single: "And I" at #96 on the Hot 100.

Their chart nadirs are rather interesting. With Rihanna, both of her major chart nadirs come from the same controversy capitalizing effort Rated R; keep in mind this is the same album that spawned 3 Top 10 hits [with "Rude Boy" going to #1]. This was the era in which she switched up her look to be edgy; mainly as a way to convey the anger she had with her abusive boyfriend, R&B singer Chris Brown.
Just like Rated R as an album, Rihanna's singles while bearable edgy Pop/Rock/R&B cuts, they were wildly inconsistent in terms of reception and cohesion if you remember that "Russian Roulette" is on the same album as "Rude Boy" [which for posterity sake has the following lyrics...]

"You like it boy
I want, want want
What you want, want, want?
Give it to me baby
Like boom, boom boom
What I want, want, want
Is what you want, want, want
Come here Rude Boy, boy
Can you get it up?
Come here Rude Boy, boy
Is you big enough?"
- Rihanna on the song "Rude Boy"

Ciara's lowest charting single in general on the other hand, ended up because of a terrible and unnecessary 4th single from her debut album; keep in mind her previous 3 songs from her debut: "Goodies", "1,2 Step" and "Oh" ft. Ludacris went #1, #2 and #2 respectively. Someone should've put the kibosh on anymore singles being released because those chart positions did their job.
Her lowest lead single depending on the #1 in Japan "Go Girl" ft. T-Pain or "Never Ever" ft. Young Jeezy is a touch telling of guest artist fallibility. By 2008, with the exception of "Chopped and Skrewed" ft. Ludacris and "Freeze" ft. Chris Brown, T-Pain had 5 Top 10 songs. His commercial pull should've been able to save "Go Girl" had it meant to be released in the U.S. With "Never Ever", Young Jeezy was enjoying album rank success because by 2008, he had 3 Top 3 albums in the country. O_O
This could simply add up as a case of bad luck, but this is just singles wise...

Album wise, their nadirs tell two different stories; one of "Wait and See" and the other "If Only". Rihanna's low point album wise, was her debut effort peaking at #10 despite the #2 song "Pon de Replay". The "Wait and See" narrative for her was simply to see if she could shake off a Top 5 earworm; when "SOS" from her second album was released and went #1, that certainly showed that an earworm can be shaken. Add in "Umbrella" ft. Jay-Z the next year and things have been relatively smooth for her [at least musically] ever since.

Ciara's narrative of "If Only" stems from a not too severe at first, case of bad luck. When her debut effort and 3 singles were released, they were part of a now defunct niche genre called "Crunk&B". This was when rapper/producer Lil' Jon [WHAT?! OK!] was a go-to producer and was at the infancy of his mainstream career. Having previously produced hits for Usher and Petey Pablo, his touch on Ciara's career proved to be fleeting because by 2006, "Crunk&B" was dead. She rebounded with a #1 sophomore album, but apart from the lead single [also on the Step Up soundtrack], the chart magic was diminishing.
By Fantasy Ride and "Love Sex Magic" being her last big hit, Ciara was facing the Sword of Damocles ever so closer. Basic Instinct would end up having been sliced and diced from the sword as it is her lowest charting album to date. Even though she had production help from another relatively major producer; by 2010's Basic Instinct producer Terius Nash AKA The-Dream had enjoyed some moderate solo success and had some commercial pull on his side when by Basic Instinct he had 3 Top 5 albums. Yet due to minimal promotion and bad luck, the album despite it being a critical success was a commercial bust.
Her most recent effort seemed doomed after leaked tracks and an album title change. Yet with it debuting and peaking at #2 and "Body Party" being in the Top 25 of the Hot 100 and going to #6 on the R&B chart [and being something to the tune of Fuse countdown fluff] showed her not being down for the count.

Now for the final points: iconic singles AKA, the one single people know is by that artist.

With Rihanna, the single people [and retrospectives can't shut the fuck up about] is her #1 hit "Umbrella" because this was perceived as her breakthrough single [even though "SOS" is the better song and did that a year before "Umbrella"]
With Ciara, the single people remember her for is her #2 hit "1.2 Step". This is R&B/Dance music at its finest and Missy Elliott is "filet mignon" on this song.

Some last bits of info for posterity. Both of these acts have relied on certain elements of sex and videography to add to their musical star-power. With Rihanna, she switches up hairstyles and levels of sex every album and song AND video.
Ciara, on the other hand has a bit of Janet Jackson started Paula Abdul perfected habit of "Dancing in videos makes up for lack of strong singing". Videos of even commercial lackluster of bust songs prove her visual effectiveness being greater than her sonic effectiveness. Her most viewed video on YouTube/VEVO? "Like a Boy" with 76,618,604 views as of today. The song itself peaked at #19 on the Hot 100.

One has had 7 Top 10 albums; one has had 4 Top 5 albums; one is something of a constant diva/bitch on wheels; one is an under-appreciated chanteuse of Modern R&B...the result is as follows...

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