On the strength of Jazze Pha and Lil Jon productions like "Goodies" and "1, 2 Step," Atlanta singer Ciara rose to fame in 2004 as crunk's queen. But five years is an eternity in contemporary R&B, and so, after sanitized '07 follow-up Ciara: The Evolution, the modern-sounding Fantasy Ride apes Britney Spears in its Euro-pop sounds and constant innuendo. "Make sure you grab a sucker on the way out the door / And make your next appointment and come back and get some more," she chants on "Like A Surgeon," which is somehow not the Weird Al parody of Madonna's "Like A Virgin." Contributors including Danja, Polow da Don, Young Jeezy, Chris Brown and The-Dream are part of the problem as well; Ciara has always had trouble distinguishing herself amidst R&B's ever-changing flavors-of-the-month roster, and it's especially difficult for her here. Crashing walls of drums and heavily layered synths smother her vocals on the tracks; lyrically, she can't seem to decide if she's an innocent nymph or seasoned slut. Despite its title, Fantasy Ride is more akin to a nightmare — confusing, full of indecipherable symbols and likely to leave you sweaty without knowing why.
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