Ciara: The Evolution

The declarative title Ciara: The Evolution hearkens toward Ciara's reputation as the trailblazing queen of crunk & B, an able muse for producers such as Jazze Pha ("1, 2 Step") and Lil Jon ("Goodies"). With her first album Goodies, the Atlanta princess joined other R&B singers who appropriate underground hip-hop/dance styles for wide cross-generational appeal (see Aaliyah, SWV, etc). But this album strikes an easy and less-remarkable middle ground, forgoing weird electro and crunk beats for palatable urban pop. There are some nice tracks, such as "C.R.U.S.H.," "Promise" and "Get Up." Ciara is a generous performer, admitting on "I'm Just Me" that it's difficult to maintain personal relationships, and then gamely urging on her undoubtedly young listeners during several exhausting dance tracks. But she doesn't have a strong voice, and some of the cuts (particularly "Get In, Fit In") are marred by her thin and tentative choruses. The Evolution can't compare to Goodies' best singles, yet furthers Ciara's career as a mainstream pop star. 3 stars