This Mother’s Day was full of celebrations for 29-year-old Ciara. Not only did the songstress celebrate her first go-around as the primary caretaker of baby Future Zahir, but also the recent release of the on-wax ode to her own mama, Jackie. CiCi has frequently noted that her sixth album—which officially dropped on May 4, six days before the matriarch’s holiday—is her most “expressive and confident” album yet. After several listens, we now know that the ATLien tells no lies. In 10 thoughts, we pick apart the question hovering in the room once the last track ends: does Jackie have the power to actually move us (physically or otherwise)?
1. Ciara doesn’t wait to kick off the album on the highest note possible. Consider the high energy “Jackie (B.M.F.)”—the sonic lovechild between Beyonce’s “***Flawless” and pre-Yoda Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair”—an introduction to the singer’s newfound mommy confidence. Ciara snarls, jeers and pops her sh-t over Harmony’s quirky tip-toeing production, not just because she oozes sexy whenever she struts down a red carpet, but because she was the vessel for a new life. “Man, I just delivered a 9 pound, 10 ounce baby. I’m a bad motherf-cker!” she boasts on wax. Trueee.
2. As a matter of fact, confidence might as well be the running theme on Jackie, given the absence of a concrete one (more on this later). Her “feelin’ myself” levels are on 100 and her sh-t-talking game is A-1 after being a relatively quiet and humble figurehead in the music industry. It’s not just about the kind of the lyrics heard on songs like “Stuck On You” (“Margiela, Pucci, Givency/All of that fly look good on me”); it’s also about the tone in which she delivers her words. Brash, unapologetic and borderline cocky. It’s kind of refreshing.
3. Jackie, which doesn’t boast many features, resurrected a bit of the Missy Elliott we’ve been missing. The VA musical multi-hyphenate joined CiCi and Pitbull on the sassy, finger-snapping, girls-night-out track “That’s How I’m Feeling.” “I might call up my friends, hang out if that’s how I feel/I might drop it low and pop a cartwheel/See me poppin’ and poppin’ and jumpin’ like a Coupe de Ville/Ain’t no stoppin’, we rockin’, we got a drink so chill,” Missy raps with the spunk, energy and panache of the Goodies era. While Missy’s verse may have been a small one, it’s enough to hold us over until her long-awaited next album.
4. Let’s just get this out of the way: “I Bet” is the only song on the album that sounds like it does. “Only One” and “I Got You” come close to that blueprint, but Jackie just isn’t the slow-burning, heartfelt R&B album we thought we’d get. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a little disappointing given the tone the lead single set. More where that came from would’ve been a treat.
5. That harmonious “I Bet” remix with Joe Jonas on the deluxe album, though? Pure flames.
6. Instead, she extends her branches away from the hip hop/R&B crowd and out to new consumers – ones more interested in the stone and LED lights of international clubs. You know, the Pitbull and Flo-Rida way. Dance-friendly tracks like “Lullaby,” “One Woman Army” and the bonus R3hab remix of “I Bet” are peppered throughout the album. While the aforementioned may not do much for long-time Ciara listeners, “Give Me Love” is not only one of the strongest fist-pumping songs, but one of the album’s better sounding songs in general. Here, she allows her voice to venture into deeper, smoother levels and tones.
7. Although Ciara broadening her horizons and trying new sounds is commendable, all the experimentation does make for a few duds. For an uncomfortably frequent number of times, ears are subjected to notes, melodies and production drizzled in high fructose corn syrup. Feel-good themes aside, “Fly” and “All Good” both give off Kidz Bop bubblegum pop vibes, “Kiss & Tell” is childish and “meh” with slightly more replay value and as poppy as the beat is, “Stuck On You” just doesn’t stick.
8. Jackie‘s most admirable moments come in the form of Ciara’s exploration of her bedroom self. There’s an overwhelming sense of sexual autonomy laced in the lyrics of songs like “Lullaby” (“Me on you and you on me/I don’t mind being your freak”) and “One Woman Army” (“I like a man who’s nice and sweet/But he can stand at attention”). She’s in control of her body and her choices, and makes sure her intimate demands are heard loud and clear. The assumed demureness of womanhood is nowhere to be found, and that’s a powerful thing. All women should feel empowered by their sex appeal and the way they share (or do not share) their bodies, not shamed for it or ashamed of it.
9. It’s understood that driving force behind Ciara making this album was her mother, but finding a common string between the 11 songs (13 on the deluxe) is a challenge. It’s hard to pin down the actual theme of Jackie. Yes, Ciara is more confident and rightfully braggadocios on many of the tracks due to the new powers of motherhood, but the track to track flow isn’t there. A poppy song about being a fly Georgia peach goes into a twinkly heartbreak dance track before we hear the song-cry over Future’s infidelity. Sonically, it feels all over the place and by album’s end, there’s no clear cut takeaway message.
10. Not to worry, there are still more positives than negatives to be found on Jackie. “I Bet,” is easily the best song on the album, but there are some close seconds and thirds with replay value. “Dance Like We’re Making Love” feels like a sultry, pop reprise of “Dancing Too Close,” Next’s ode to sensual dancing. If there was ever a song needed to be added to ladies’ pre-club playlists, “Jackie (B.M.F.)” is it. Bookmark the anthemic “Only One” and the high-energy “That’s How I’m Feeling,” as well. And of course, there’s the album’s most endearing moment of all, “I Got You.” New parents can’t help but have their tiny tots bless a track, and Mama CiCi is no different. Baby Future giggles and coos during the intro of Ciara’s true album lullaby.
‘Jackie’ is available on iTunes now.