Ciara's 6th release, Jackie, was hands-down the best nap I've ever had and the longest it took me to write a review (see other articles written by Eddie J. here). The lack of excitement that permeated the production and songwriting, and the monotonous musical composition and vocal performances solidified that no matter how much potential Ciara has as a performer, she won't have the ingredients necessary to reach it.
If you're wondering who Jackie is or hadn't heard, she's Ciara's mother. Having her 1st child last year, Ciara "said" she wanted this album to be an homage to maternity. I put "said" in quotations because it's anything but. The intro/title-track's ("Jackie (B.M.F.)") premise, for example, could've been that she better understands her mother's experiences now that she's a parent, but instead, it was about how she's a "bad mother *cker." Yep, that's what "B.M.F." stands for. Does she expect her mother to listen to this song or be proud it's named after her? I'd be embarrassed, not just because of the vulgarity (and how it should've had the musicality of the bridge in the 3rd movement), but because of the absence of direction that afflicts the whole record. It's almost as if she wasn't aware of each song's subject matter and had to come up with an all-encompassing title to embody a false concept. Motherhood, and more specifically Ciara's mother, is the last thing I think of after hearing this project. It's club and sex-centered, which isn't bad in theory, but the title should've reflected that. Only if Jackie was a pseudonym for her vagina, or her best friend who goes to the club with her every night, would there be any correlation between the name and the content.
Jackie's music and production is as blasé as the last few efforts, to the point I'm doubtful Ciara has any influence or say-so in her album construction. This record was excruciatingly difficult to get through, and even harder to muster motivation to review. A slab of mid-tempo cuts is generally okay, but because there was no cohesion or effort to keep the material engaging, it was a cesspool of filler that felt like a 50 minute long song. "That's How I'm Feelin,'" featuring Pitbull and Missy Elliott, is generic in chord structure, bland in production and easily forgettable, even with Ester Dean belting for her life in the chorus. "Lullaby" has the typical R&B chord progression, like that of "Make Love In This Club (Part 2)" by Usher, "Can't Raise a Man" by K. Michelle and countless others (you know it when you hear it). The attempt at bringing back the 90s-era skating rink beat to random tracks like "Fly" only added an unnecessary datedness. The vocals and lyrics do nothing to help the redundancy of the music, which is so overtaking that the lackluster single "I Bet" is the peak of the album and sticks out as a "gem," though it doesn't fit with the rest of the songs subject-wise and doesn't serve an overall purpose.
So aimless, Jackie seems to have been made simply to fill a space in Ciara's discography count, meet the terms of her new record contract and having something new to "tour" off of or promote. Save your money and time and *Dionne Warwick voice* walk on by.
I do believe this album shows some insight as to who Ciara is, or at least what she isn't, and that's musically devoted. Her give-a-darn has broken. I believe she honestly doesn't care about music at this point in her life and is only doing what she feels she has to, both to fulfill contractual obligations and not let her fans down. Jackie makes this more evident than the previous 3 LPs, with her audible apathy at an all-time high. Aside from "I Bet," "One Woman Army" and "I Got You," she didn't seem to connect with what she was singing; it was like she was doing a demo for another artist.
I also venture to propose that Ciara is the type of "artist" who just does what her record label tells her to do. Although we give Rihanna hell for seeming passive with the creative direction of her albums, by comparison they've always been cohesive in musical theme and concept and give the perception that they're reflective of her life. Even with the shallow song subjects of partying and wearing designer clothes, one would likely prefer to hear Loud or Talk That Talk over Ciara or Jackie. There's no way an artist with creative control who wants to make an album representative of her life as a new mother and out of a relationship would make what Ciara just released. Not to insinuate partying and sex wouldn't be a part of that equation; it still wouldn't be the majority of the content, unless she is truly that vapid and superficial. Furthermore, it looks as if she, nor her team, know how to market her. Going from the street-but-sweet image of 2004, to a more finessed sex kitten with epic choreography sprinkled on top in 2006 was an easy transition, but it plateaued there with her sound. Persisting to push a stagnant image only leaves us to our imagination about who she actually is. Add in music that further perpetuates a deficiency in focus, direction and artistic/creative merit, and that answers all the "Why isn't Ciara more ___" questions by fans and spectators.
The solution is complex beneath the surface, but also very simple. Ciara has to care. Until she really cares about her image and work, all the think-pieces and social media rants on her career and steps she needs to take will fall on deaf ears and we'll continue to hear filler fluff for another decade...if she lasts that long.