Album Review: Ashanti - The Declaration

Hey, remember Ashanti? To be fair, she didn’t completely drop off the face of the Earth, but it has been about four years since her last album and in Pop music terms, even a few months can seem like a lifetime. Since then, she’s had several very public battles with Irv Gotti, been in a couple of movies and had a baby with Nelly or got married or something like that (it’s hard to keep up).With all the time off and new experiences, you’d think Ashanti would’ve had plenty of time to find a sound for herself that justified another album but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, most of The Declaration is made up of half-hearted retreads of territory already claimed by more capable divas. In the past, Ashanti had a good thing going by singing over Hip-Hop tracks and familiar samples. These days, she’s trying way too hard to create big, theatric numbers that over-extend the limits of her vocal ability. Her voice just doesn’t have the strength and maturity to belt out grand, emotional Mary-isms on “The Way That I Love You” and she just sounds silly trying to play sexy next to Robin Thicke on “Things You Make Me Do.”Ashanti is an artist geared more for fun Pop records than serious power ballads, but there’s not really anything here that has much hit potential. “Good Good” is probably the closest approximation with its typical Jermaine Durpi production and an interpolation of Jackson and McCartney’s “The Girl Is Mine” that’s just brief enough to avoid a lawsuit. “Body On Me” with Akon and Nelly is in fact just as awful as it sounds, though it wouldn’t be a shock to hear it being forcefully crammed down the public’s throat for about three weeks this summer. Babyface was somehow wrangled into producing “Mother,” which (as songs about someone’s mother go) is good enough at face value, but still not worth the price of admission.The success of “Only U” seemingly made Ashanti think she was ready for a more mature sound, and while that might be true, she should have remembered to also sound good. Still, The Declaration is admittedly more boring than bad and more unoriginal than unpleasant. We’ve heard worse, but we’ve also heard much, much better from Ashanti and even by her own standards, this is okay at best. Better luck next time.