On the strength of Jazze Pha and Lil Jon productions such as “Goodies” and “1, 2 Step,” Atlanta singer Ciara rose to fame in 2004 as crunk’s queen. But five years is an eternity in contemporary R&B, and after her sanitized 2006 follow-up, Ciara: The Evolution, she’s back with Fantasy Ride—which apes Britney Spears in its Euro-pop sounds and constant innuendo. “Make sure you grab a sucker on the way out the door/And make your next appointment and come back and get some more,” she chants on “Like a Surgeon,” which is somehow not the Weird Al parody of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”
Contributors (including Danja, Polow da Don, Young Jeezy, Chris Brown and the Dream) are part of the problem as well. Ciara has always had trouble distinguishing herself among the ever-changing roster of flavors-of-the-month, and it’s especially difficult for her here. Crashing walls of drums and heavily layered synth smother her vocals on the tracks, and lyrically, she can’t seem to decide if she’s an innocent nymph or a seasoned slut. Despite its title, Fantasy Ride is more akin to a nightmare: confusing, full of indecipherable symbols and likely to leave you sweaty without knowing why.