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Ciara: Basic Instinct (Laface/Jive)

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Ciara springs, Athena-like, from the janet.-era Janet Jackson who left behind her famous surname to bring raw sexuality into her image.

Ciara doesn't always convincingly pull off Janet's swagger. That famous topless janet. cover was as self-possessed as it was self-revealing. Ciara is often a pale imitation of that idea, jiggling athletically in her underwear through a string of music videos. Ciara feels engineered to sell records to men; Janet felt engineered to sell records.

But Ciara's a bit deeper than that, once you get past the skanky surface. After all, she co-wrote the gender-bending anthem "Like a Boy" for 2006's The Evolution. Maybe she's in on the joke; after all, she's titled her latest after a campy film starring a fuck machine who was all male fantasy. I'm not sure Ciara can have it both ways, but she's trying adamantly.

Basic Instinct doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's a damn sturdy R&B/dance album. Ciara has (sort-of) confessional moments—"See I was on the red carpet when I shoulda been in the studio layin' down hot shit," she raps (flatly) on the title track—but she's more fun when she's announcing her arrival and demanding the bass on "Gimmie Dat."

Ciara is often shallow, but is a bit more fun than Keyshia Cole or Keri Hilson (whose Calling All Hearts and No Boys Allowed, respectively, are both stronger records). But there's no sin in simple pleasure, so if I'm having people over for a party this spring, I'll be putting on Basic Instinct.

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