Peak: # 1
Ciara was the sharpest of the not-quite-Aaliyahs to emerge mid-decade, just around the time we ran out of posthumous Aaliyah in the can. In fact, Ci Ci emerged with a more fully-formed persona than Aaliyah did on her earliest hits, and without the creepy pedo’s delight undertones. At a time R&B girls were giving it up way too easy, it was a kick to hear this skinny little sexy thing state her never-gonna-get-it prerogatives. If, ultimately, Ciara lacked Aaliyah’s coy mystery, and her insistence on romance as well as finance, that’s less an indictment of her own gifts than of the limitations imposed by a crasser pop moment.
If Ciara’s studio partner Jazze Pha was not quite a not-quite-Timbaland, he had the contact list to compensate. Not since Ashanti had such big guns backed up a newbie gal, and unlike that wan one Ciara didn’t have to make her name as a back-up chick. Even on Missy’s “Lose Control” she was prominently showcased, and that was after Missy had already juiced up Jazze’s Bambaataa-lite roller-skate jam “1,2 Step.” Dre & Vidal might not be as top-shelf, but the time-warp funk of “Oh” remains their finest moment, and Ludacris was the most consistent guest-rapper of the decade. And Ciara’s debut single was entrusted to a real pro. “Goodies” is a grab bag of Lil Jon tricks–g-funk sine whine refracted in all directions, “All of My Love” staccato synths, snaky guitar lick–rearranged with an auteur’s sense of personal style.
Consider “Goodies” Lil Jon’s gift back to women for all the services and contortions his rap hits had demanded of female listeners–or consider it a partial answer to Petey Pablo’s “Freek-A-Leek,” another LJ production, in which loveable slob Petey brags that he only eats pussy when he’s drunk. (Not sure what’s up with the leek. Organic sex aid? Is “Pablo” a Welsh name?) Petey leers a good game here, and his rap (unlike most guest appearances) plays a genuine role in the song’s narrative. As for Ciara, her message is mixed–sexy and independent she may be, with her cookies safely jarred and her head unturned by a flashy Benz. But at this stage, she was better at denying men’s desires than determining her own.