Likes: Nowhere, Scars, Never Should Have, Don’t Tell Me No
Dislikes: First Real Love, Perfect So Far
Overall: Great Lyrics, mostly solid musical production, well worth the six year wait.
After leaving record label Murder Inc. back in 2008, R&B singer-songwriter Ashanti hasn’t released an album or been much in the spotlight at all. It’s hard to believe that an artist who was so prevalent in the early 2000’s with a succession of hits all but completely fell off the radar. Over the last 6 years, Ashanti has been trying to rebuild her brand, starting her own recording label and developing an album. Fans have been following her every Twitter move since around 2011, as what would become “Braveheart” was under construction and the expected release date was pushed back nearly ten times due to setbacks and legal holdings. “Braveheart” finally dropped in the U.S. on March 4th, and I say it was absolutely worth the wait.“Braveheart” is a straight-from-the-heart musical autobiography of everything Ashanti has endured over her absence. At first listen, one would assume the album was just a love story without a happy ending, but it’s so much more than that. Yes, she obviously delves into the rocky history that was her former 9-year relationship with rapper Nelly, but intertwined with the hypnotic beats and lyrics of love lost, is the tale of her industry troubles and her appreciation for her fans. “Braveheart’s” themes are summed up in the title track’s interlude.
Now, let’s get into where it wouldn’t hurt to see a little improvement. Some of the songs, such as the annoying and almost impossible to understand “First Real Love” (featuring Reggaeton rapper Beenie Man) and the Rihanna-like club banger “Count,” are rhythmically too simplistic and take away from the album’s overall feel. Throw-away songs like these always appear on Ashanti’s albums (i.e. “Turn it Up and “Good Good” from prior albums) and they kind of tamper with and interrupt the story she’s trying to tell, but generally, she gets her point across pretty well. In the end, if you’re a true fan of Ashanti, you’ll live for “Braveheart.” If you forgot how great she was, this record is sure to remind you of why she hit it so big back in 2002. Ashanti’s not afraid to let everyone know she’s back and better than ever.