It’s come late, but Basic Instinct is one of the best RnB albums of the year.
Matthew Horton 2010
Ciara’s hoity-toity brand of charisma can feel like a lack of personality, her unapproachable demeanour precluding warmth, an endless turnover of producers clouding her identity. From a standing start, she was an RnB/crunk star, scoring a number one straight off with Goodies, but innovation and momentum tailed off as a succession of collaborators tried to nail a signature sound – each album has had its moments, but focus has been fleeting, with credits as long as your arm. This time Ciara’s sparing with her commissions, handing over 90% of Basic Instinct to canny Rihanna/Beyoncé producers Terius ‘The-Dream’ Nash and ‘Tricky’ Stewart in a bid for sharp beats, pop nous and character.
What a great job Nash and Stewart have done. Basic Instinct is vibrant, addictive and sleek, a calling card for modern RnB shorn of filler and gauche imitation. Tracks are crisp – Speechless is a trim, anthemic synth ballad; Gimmie Dat’s high-speed electro-jacking is a lesson in ferocious dancefloor inspiration – and hooks are memorable: perm any from Girls Get Your Money’s "Always want to holler" chant, You Can Get It’s simple refrain and Ride’s lascivious slow jam. Ciara’s response to these classy surroundings is to up her own game, offering a Missy-style hypnotic drawl on Yeah I Know and convincing dancehall swagger over the raggedy beats of Wants for Dinner. She’s shown signs before, but on Basic Instinct she really becomes the new Janet Jackson, mixing sugary vocals and tempered aggression – particularly on overture Basic Instinct (U Got Me) which flows from snarl to soppiness in the space of a minute – and rolling over the beats in time-honoured Jackson fashion. The breaks, blips and drop-outs of Heavy Rotation hark right back to Rhythm Nation 1814.
Last year’s Fantasy Ride fixated on Ciara the sex machine, not least on Justin Timberlake smash duet Love Sex Magic where sauce overwhelmed song. She’s no less seductive here, but the wink is more knowing – "I market it so good," she assures us on Ride (hey, sex sells), and on the gorgeous, deep-pile I Run It, she promises a good time "In the kitchen / In the hallway / On the sofa... Popping this thing like a toaster". Domestic bliss was never so mucky. That you now find yourself engaging with Ciara the singer is a tribute to her confidence and new-found commitment, and to the sympathetic bed of sound created by her cohorts. It’s come late, but Basic Instinct is one of the best RnB albums of the year.