Pop Singer Ciara Proves Her Theory On 'Evolution'

By Chris Richards
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Sing along: "Nuh-uh-uh-uh-uh."

Of all the lyrics on Ciara's delightful sophomore effort, "The Evolution," these might be the catchiest. You can hear them on "C.R.U.S.H." -- a brisk dance track where the singer divulges her affections via acronym, the "U" symbolizing the smile that gives her away. When accused of falling in love, Ciara coyly blushes her denial: "Nuh-uh-uh-uh-uh."

This comes from a 21-year-old singer with a talent for turning rote interjections into clever pop hooks. She detonated dance floors in 2005 with a song simply titled "Oh," its saw-toothed keyboards lumbering along with hissing high-hats in a heavy-metalish dirge. Over the apocalyptic sludge Ciara cooed: "Oh, oh, oh, oh."

"The Evolution" finds the emerging pop star exploring breezier arrangements at faster tempos. Much faster tempos. The best of her new tracks evoke breakneck booty-bass anthems of yore: Ghost Town DJs' "My Boo" and Tag Team's once omnipresent "Whoomp! There It Is" among them.

The genre made ripples a decade ago and it's easy to imagine a then tween-age Ciara bouncing off her bedroom walls with the radio on blast. Now using those tempos as building blocks, she's crafted some excellent pop songs, some fast and sweet enough to thrill latter-day tweens, teens and grown men who write for newspapers.

The first single, "Get Up," is top-notch, with violin plucks and taffy-sweet synthesizers whizzing along. "We can have a good time," Ciara promises on the bridge. "Follow me to the beat." Airy and insistent, it's one of the best pop songs of the year.

Almost as good is the Neptunes-produced "I Proceed," which finds Ciara surrendering to the rhythm: "It feels so good / I can't control my waist / I can't control my hips / It makes me want to break." She clearly has no problem controlling her voice, however, exhaling her lines with a breathy allure. This one-size-fits-all delivery might be Ciara's greatest strength. She doesn't propel her songs as much as preside over them, sometimes conjuring the effortless cool of the late Aaliyah.

The album isn't all quick-tempo bliss. It's littered with a few too many break-up ballads -- some possibly targeted at ex-boyfriend and heartthrob rapper Bow Wow. "You should have been happy," Ciara laments on "My Love," "Said you wanted to have some kids, build a family." (The idea of fresh-faced Bow Wow raising a litter of his own isn't sad, it's scary.)

But Ciara gets it right with "Promise," threading a more distinctive melody through the Prince-inspired grooves. "You can be my teacher / I'll do homework," she sings. "You can give me extra credit, baby / I'll do more work."

For a schoolgirl come-on, it sounds plenty mature.

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Get Up," "C.R.U.S.H.," "Promise"

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