NEW YORK - Though her latest CD is titled "Fantasy Ride," the making of Ciara's third album turned out to be turbulent.
While the young singer's first two albums were platinum-sellers with chart-toppers like "Like a Boy," "Goodies" and "One, Two Step," when it came time to release "Fantasy Ride," it took a while to find a single that connected with listeners. The album's release date was pushed back as songs like "Go Girl" featuring T-Pain failed to make much of an impact.
"I was definitely anxious to release it but I wanted to release it the right way at the right time," she says.
It looks like Ciara found her ideal moment. The album's launch single, "Love Sex Magic" with Justin Timberlake, was a top 10 hit on Billboard's pop chart and the release of "Fantasy Ride" this week comes as she prepares for a flurry of TV appearances, including "Saturday Night Live."
"When you're trying to create work you can't always be confined to a date, things just have to be right," said Mark Pitts, who executive produced the CD along with Ciara and is president of urban music at Jive Label Group. "It was actually a blessing in disguise."
"I just wanted it to be perfection for my fans, so that's a part of the reason why we pushed it back and I'm very, very happy and excited now," says Ciara. "Now is the perfect timing."
The record represents a coming of age for the 23-year-old singer, who first came on the scene as an 18-year-old with the hit "Goodies," a song where she defiantly talks about not giving in to a guy.
The mood has shifted on "Fantasy Ride." The first single with Timberlake is a sexually charged club song with a video that's equally as provocative as she struts around in revealing outfits, and even licks Timberlake in the clip.
Some might find it a bit much for the girl who once had a tomboy image. But Ciara says she's ready to show a more "sensual side."
"I can definitely say I'm embracing the woman in me even more," she said. "It's not like I'm trying to create it, it's just what I feel. I guess as you get a little older, it somehow happens naturally."
Besides Timberlake, the CD also features guest appearances by Young Jeezy and Ludacris, as well as The-Dream and old friend Missy Elliott. But the cameo that may get the most attention is one by labelmate Chris Brown, on the song "Turntables."
Ciara said she didn't think of dropping the track with Brown, who faces assault charges for allegedly attacking then-girlfriend Rihanna in February.
"It's not really one for me to comment on or to judge, you know, because it's a very personal matter, and to be honest with you, you can't go off of everything that you see," she says. "I just wanted to keep the focus on the music more than anything, and the record was a record that I really loved, and I loved the way that it sounded with Chris Brown's vocals on it so I left it that way."
The singer has learned that making difficult decisions is a part of growing up.
"At the end of the day it's about my happiness and you realize you can't please everyone, so I'm just becoming more confident in my way of thinking and just really being able to be strong in my beliefs and what I stand for," she says.
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