The Evolution

Artist: CiaraTitle: The EvolutionRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Alex Thornton

A few summers ago, it seemed like the FCC would revoke a radio station's license unless they played Usher's "Yeah' at least twice an hour. The effects of the song's domination are still felt today with an abundance of singles that infuse R&B with the sensibilities of southern rap. Ciara was able to ride the new style to the top of the charts with her successful debut, Goodies, and "The Princess of Crunk & B" is still going strong with The Evolution (LaFace/Zomba).

Lil Jon naturally pops up early for "That's Right," which doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel but serves as an appropriate reminder of exactly what to expect from Ciara: energetic, high-tempo dance tracks. The Evolution is primarily composed of 808-driven pop, and while songs like "I Proceed" and "Get Up" (with Chamillionaire) are barely present lyrically, they make up the difference in spirit. At their best, the occasional deviations from the dance formula work by maintaining its most appealing elements. The clean and understated "I'm Just Me" and the sultry "Promise" have enough kick to stay on message despite the lowered tempo.

On paper, it's nice that Ciara attempts to live up to the album's title, but in practice, the results make the mindless dance tracks easier to appreciate. On "Get In, Fit In," Ciara begins by imparting her tips on personal style but runs out of lyrics half way and trails off into an ambling integration of something similar to Kiss' "I Was Made For Lovin' You." This may have originated as a well intentioned desire to be playful, but it comes across as lazy more than quirky. The same can be said of "Make It Last Forever," where Lyn Collins's "Think About It" (also used by Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock's "It Takes Two") is used to shoot for a cute throwback. The unnecessary string arrangements and synthesized horns that Rodney Jerkins adds never blend well with the distracting break, and Ciara's cheesy stab at rapping terribly misses the "cute" mark.

The Evolution may be one of the better releases of its variety this year, but with relatively little long-term competition on the dance scene right now, Ciara mostly wins by default. Evolution is a decent diversion, but for all her talk, this album isn't much in the way of growth.