It's here, right on schedule: The back-to-basics album, the one that comes after the hit debut and the failed experimental album but before the inevitable comeback disc. In Ciara's case, "Basic Instinct" is meant to erase the memory of '09's "Fantasy Ride," a clunky, medium-high concept disc about which, she would apparently like you to know, she is very, very sorry.
Ciara began her career as the Princess of Crunk, which wasn't exactly a job title with a promising future. Her next few releases flitted between club tracks and ballads without landing on anything memorable. Ciara has a pretty wisp of a voice and an in-between persona - not too slutty, not too sassy, not too proud, not too anything. She seems less like a performer than a device, a framework that songs get draped over.
Throughout "Basic Instinct," the usual superstar producers (Tricky Stewart, The-Dream) do the usual things (slow jams, Auto-Tuned, synth-heavy bangers) with the usual results, only less so. Ciara hasn't yet found her killer song, her "Umbrella," and she hasn't the gravity to carry off lesser songs like "Girls Get Your Money," a snappy but terrible ode to girls, and how they'd like to, you know, get money and stuff, which was probably irredeemable anyway.
The rest is merely uneven: The fine, thumping "Gimmie Dat," with its booming bass, offers a throughline to Ciara's crunk past. On the title track, she laments time spent on the red carpet instead of in the studio. It's a personalized mea culpa that's meant to make it okay to like Ciara again, a feat that remains beyond her limited powers of persuasion.