Ciara has came a very long way. When she released her debut album Goodies, which includes her two most successful singles “Goodies” and “1,2 Step”, the media started calling her princess of crunk. Her later work The Evolution established her position in mainstream R&B/crunk, while working with artists like Missy Elliott, Ludacris and Chamillionaire built her up through those first years of career.
She was often compared to Janet Jackson, because of her sensual dance and soft, silky voice, but when Fantasy Ride came out, something fell down. Despite the fact that a song “Love Sex Magic”, an electro-funk/pop collaboration with Justin Timberlake, was another top-ten single for her, the album was less successful than her previous work.
Since then, she released three albums with some really magnificent singles (“Ride”, “Body Party”, “I Bet”) but she was clearly unable to bounce back on mainstream album charts. It probably won’t happen with Beauty Marks either, but Ciara is in the best phase of her private life she has been since 2006, and that’s why this album deserves at least a bit more recognition.
The singer’s seventh album is focused on her marriage with Russell Wilson. When they met in 2016, they both were coming from different past experiences with their ex-partners: the American football player just divorced from Ashton Meem, and Ciara had broke up with famous rapper Future.
After months of dating, Wilson married Ciara in 2016, and their daughter Sienna was born one year later. While on some songs on her last album Jackie, she was still reminiscent of a past bad relationship, on Beauty Marks, she shows she has moved on with grace, and it’s time to celebrate her blessed family in every aspect.
“The best thing I could ever do for me is love myself”, Ciara says at the beginning of the album’s opening track “I Love Myself” is a nice song featuring rapper Macklemore. He has been away from the rap scene recently, but as always, he delivers an important message to the youth: “Don’t want the ‘Gram telling my daughters what beauty is, nah / I ain’t raising princesses, I’m raising warriors”, he raps some words of wisdom.
The story behind the next song called “Level Up” is very interesting. Ciara shared a controversial Instagram post months before the song came out. The post was a clip showing John Gray’s sermon in which he speaks to women about what they can do to find a husband. Surprisingly, it sparked thousands of reactions either supporting or condemning the singer’s approach towards women.
Ciara didn’t mean anything bad of course, but she used the record to explain her real intentions. “My lessons, made blessings, I turned that into money / Thank God I never settled, this view is so much better”, she sings over the uptempo and very catchy beat. That’s her best banger record in few years, and a much better offering than “Work” or “Gimmie Dat”. Also, it was strongly promoted by the #LevelUpChallenge on social media, which Parri$ Goebel was responsible for.
“Level Up” is not the only song on the album that could hit the radio stations immediately. “Thinking About You” is a rare bubble pop smash from Ciara, which was inspired by 80s dance music. The feel-good single is often compared to candy songs from the likes of Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen or Justin Timberlake.
The US singer has never seemed so natural and simply happy on a record. Another highlight on the album that continues to prove this is a smooth track called “Trust Myself“. “One touch and I’m begging for two / Strung out and I don’t know what to do / I don’t trust myself around you”, she almost whispers over a melancholy and breezy beat.
The strongest moment on the album is when Ciara gets really honest with listeners on the ballad “Greatest Love”. This song is like a alluring mix of R. Kelly’s and Monica’s best works. “I should’ve known when you took my son as your own”, she says directly to Russell. Is Future feeling what he lost now?
The dance records make a strong appearance on Beauty Marks. “Dose” sees Ciara returning back to her roots, which are in Atlanta. The song is a perfect choice for any cheerleading routine, and could easily be a part of a Beychella set.
The singer is also trying new trends on the album, as she cooperates with Kelly Rowland on a solid trap-inspired track called “Girl Gang”. The female anthem is not as strong as “Feeling Myself” from Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj, but the sound and lyrics are on fire. Ciara also touch a bit of Afrobeats on “Freak Me” featuring Tekno.
The closing title track is a very emotional record. “Beauty Marks”, which was co-written by Skylar Grey, also get a very private and intimate music video, a closer look to singer’s wedding.
Beauty Marks is quite the same as Ciara’s last three albums when it comes to sound, so it’s rarely innovative, but the truth is, she never sounds so confident and completed. It’s also worth to mention the longplay was released on Beauty Marks Entertainment, her independent label. That’s definitely a great move to control her career more.
“I was this young girl excited to be living my dreams and having the best time. I’m back to that phase again”, Ciara said in one of the latest interview. And despite the fact Beauty Marks won’t lead the mainstream album charts, you can definitely feel what she has been saying is the truth.
Ciara’s Beauty Marks is out now, purchase it on iTunes here and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Julia Borowczyk