LOS ANGELES — Is Ciara opening up her cookie jar?
"I want to bring you into my world, that's what I really want to do with this one," the "Goodies" singer said of her upcoming sophomore album, contradicting the message of her standoffish breakthrough single.
After playing MTV News a few songs, however, it seemed Ciara is not exactly welcoming in everyone.
(To see Ciara in the studio talking about her new LP and playing some new tracks, check out "Spankin' Free Ciara: Watch Her 'Evolution,' " on Overdrive).
Take the tentatively titled "I'm Doing Me Tonight," for example. "With girls, we have a tendency to alter our schedule for guys," Ciara said during a break from recording the song with producer Lil Jon recently. "So the whole thing is, 'I'm doing me tonight. I'm going to make changes. I'm going to go out and have fun with my girls. It's all about me.' "
Then there's "Like a Boy." "I think a lot of women can relate to this, the whole thing about when a guy does certain things, it's cool, but when a girl does certain things, we look crazy," she explained, referencing lyrics like "Pull up your pants just like him/ Take out the trash just like him/ Getting your cash like him/ Fast like him/ Girl you better act like it then." "Sometimes I wish I could act like a boy," she said. "Like, that's so real to me."
So maybe there's a bit of the same you-ain't-gettin'-none Ciara we came to love on Goodies, but she swears it's a new direction. The LP is even called Ciara: The Evolution.
"It's just a perfect way of summing it up," she said of the title. "It's definitely a transformation from the first album to this one. This is my first time co-producing, which is really exciting for me. I've been learning a lot throughout this whole recording process. And I'm thankful to just be in my second album. But it's all about where I'm going next" (see "From Crunk To Yeek — Ciara Steps In A New Direction For Goodies Follow-Up").
Ciara wrote or co-wrote every song on the album, due December 5, and co-produced almost every track. Some of her Goodies collaborators returned, including Jon and mentor Jazze Pha, but there's also a new slate of both bigwigs (Pharrell, Will.I.Am, Rodney Jerkins) and newcomers (Brian Kennedy).
Musically, Ciara: The Evolution blends Miami bass with Atlanta crunk, with some ballads and old-school homages tossed in. On the Will.I.Am-produced "Do It," for instance, she samples Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It." "I feel like that's one of my responsibilities as an artist, to remind you of those that paved the way for what we do," Ciara said.
The album's first single, "Promise," was a joint effort between Ciara and Polow Da Don (Fergie's "London Bridge," Pussycat Dolls' "Buttons"). " 'Promise' basically is saying just how I'm single right now and ... I don't even want to explain too much because when you hear the words you can put it together," Ciara said, confirming her separation from Bow Wow. "I'm someone that goes hard for a guy that I like, and this record is saying there's nothing I want to do but spend my life with you, whoever that guy is that I envision."
Over a dance beat, Ciara sings, "Opened my heart/ Gave it you/ Told the whole world that I'm in love with you," leading into the chorus, " 'Cause baby, there is nothing I won't do/ To spend my life with you/ I'll give my all to you/ I promise that I will never lie to you."
"She's coming into her own," Pha said of his protégé. "And I think that's what's most important for her, growing up and becoming a woman."
"She was 17 years old when we started working together," Lil Jon added. "She was this shy, quiet girl in the studio. She is a woman now."
Maybe so, but Ciara is still 20 years old and speaking to a fanbase that is largely younger.
"It's very important to me in the writing of the record [that it] be relatable to every demographic," she said, citing the Jon-produced "Crush" as an example. "Even if you're 21 and older, 21 and younger — even if you're still in elementary school — a crush is a crush, period."
So does that mean Ciara has a new crush? "I'm not saying that, it's just a great topic for a song," she replied, laughing. Another great topic is apparently the importance of self-confidence, something Ciara addresses on at least two songs: the Pharrell-produced "I'm Just Me" and the Will.I.Am-produced "Get In, Fit In."
"To me, everyone wants to be like the other," Ciara explained. "My whole thing is find yourself, love you for who you are and do what you do your way."