love and heartbreak with ciara
We caught up with Cici in LA to discuss Future, Riccardo Tisci and Baltimore.
There's no denying that the last year must have been a tough one for R&B singer Ciara: after falling for rapper Future and letting their early flirtations play out very publicly in a striptease-style dance scene in the Body Party video, they were soon an item, engaged and expecting a baby. But a few months after baby Future Zahir (aka Juicy Man) was born, Ciara called off the engagement over rumors that the rapper was cheating on her. So her new LP, Jackie, which drops today, was always going to be a break-up album, but it's one that strikes a new note. In many ways, it's the break-up celebration. Whilst there are some slow, reflective tracks in the vein of I Bet, and lyrics making it clear she wishes their relationship had worked out, Ciara is mostly fighting, dancing, moving on and demanding "love or nothing at all." There's the sneaking suspicion that she's happy she got out when she did, and a core sense that she knows she deserves better.
Jackie (BMF) is a statement opener, name-checking her mom (who she now respects more since her own motherhood) and reassuring us she's a "Bad Mother Fucker." That's How I'm Feelin' sees a guest rap from old buddy Missy - another tease that she might finally make a solo comeback - and there's a more tactical publicity cameo from Joe Jonas on an I Bet remix (the two will both star in NBC's primetime entertainment show I Can Do That from the end of May.) The standouts, though, are the new single Dance Like We're Making Love, the oddly '80s Chinatown sound of Stuck On You (her label-dropping fashion boast à la A$AP Rocky's Fashion Killa) and the dance anthem Give Me Love.
The album is a lot more upbeat than I expected. After hearing I Bet, I thought maybe it would be a slower, reflective album?
Making this album marked probably one of the happiest times in my life - having my child has brought me so much joy. It was important to me that I expressed that energy. I love being happy, I love dancing. Yeah, I could be talking about something that's really tough and hard, but why not put some cool energy underneath it to give it that bright tone?
There must have been a lot of mixed emotions. Obviously it was a joyous time having your first child, but you've had difficult times recently too.
Oh absolutely. For this chapter in my life, there are so many things that I've processed. Music is very powerful. Music, money and medicine are the three most powerful things on earth, and I think music is the most powerful of the three. When you understand the power of music, it's only right that you use it to make things that are real to you that maybe could help someone else.
Tell us about being a BMF (Bad Mother Fucker.)
When I walked to the studio and I was thinking about my life and my journey - personally and professionally - I was like, "You know what? I just delivered a 9 pound 10 ounce baby, there ain't nothing I can't do. I'm a bad mother-hmmmm!" So I went in the studio and just screamed it out. All of us can find that inner BMF. It's empowering to me, for any person who's had trials and tribulations and have overcome them.
Beyoncé's last album made a real statement about still being sexual after you've had a child. And this album seems to be the same for you.
Oh absolutely. I'm still very young, and I have so many more years ahead of me to make the best of my life. Having a child doesn't mean you become an old lady. I think that having a child actually brings you even more energy - more of pep in your step. But I hope that my son's never like, "Mom, you're trying to be too cool", once he gets older. Sometimes it gets weird! Like first you're cool, and then when you start getting older and they start getting older, it gets a little weird.
I saw your Martin Luther King quote on Instagram in relation to the situation in Baltimore. Things are very tense in America right now. Do you have any thoughts on it?
I just asked someone, "Was the world always like this is or is it maybe social media that makes everything seem even more dramatic?" It's like the world is going mad. There's so much chaos everywhere. I think being a mom really makes you see things way differently. You think about how things could affect your child, or you see situations and think, "That could be my child." I really pray all the time that there can be a little more balance around the world. We're in a time where everyone's being very expressive, which is a good thing. I just think the key to life, when things do happen, is how we respond to them. Some of what is happening has gone too far, where you're burning down schools. You should fight for what you believe in, but there has to be a way to do it without tearing down the things that you need. And I found that really amazing quote by Martin Luther King. He was a man of pride and integrity. And I think that we have to have some integrity with the choices that we make. And we've got to make sure that while we are fighting for something, we're also leading good examples.
You've just been to the White House with NFL player Russell Wilson for a dinner with the Japanese Prime Minister. How was that?
Japan is one of my favorite places in the world to visit. It was really cool because also I can speak a little Japanese and I got to speak a little to Prime Minister Abe and his wife. We were very fortunate to have an exclusive tour of the West Wing and the Oval Office. There was this really cool statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, and it was just amazing. It gives you goosebumps.
So are you officially seeing Russell Wilson?
Ahhh, all I can tell you is that life is sweet, life is amazing, and I'm really enjoying myself.
Good! It's cool that Missy's on the album.
Me and Missy go back to the beginning of my career. Some of my coolest moments are with her, like receiving a Grammy and an MTV Moon Man. She's been a very strong supporter of me throughout my whole career. Beyond the music, just being there as a friend. She's someone that's inspired me coming up as a kid.
Do you think we'll get another Missy album ever? It keeps being suggested, but I don't know if we ever will.
Anything is possible. She's in a great place these days and I guess you just have to stay tuned to see what her genius mind is gonna do next.
You've been a muse to Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci for a while now.
Beyond his work, he has a heart of gold. He and I are like brother and sister. I went to Paris to play a private show recently, and I said, "Ricky I'm in town, let's go eat." And he's like, "Yeah let's do it." We stayed up until 3 in the morning laughing and being so silly.
The album artwork is great - like a clean 90s CK ad.
I'm really inspired by the 90s right now. Italo [Zucchelli] is another amazing friend that I have. He's so humble and the relationship is really beyond his work. We had dinner in New York recently and were laughing all night, doing selfies.
I hear you love the new Kendrick Lamar album. Who else are you listening to?
I like Drake. I listen to a lot of old school music to be honest with you: Al Green, Sade, Luther Vandross. All that good stuff! I'm an old soul.
You've lived in Atlanta - what do you make of the Real Housewives?
I like watching those shows. That's one of my guilty pleasures. I think they're great for entertainment. Any woman who's getting the chance to live their dream and have a job and an opportunity, I'm always going to support that and have nothing but great things to say.
Do you see them round town?
I have run into Nene on the plane several times, which is always funny. She's a fun person. A lot of personality.
Are there any songs on the album that you're especially proud of?
The Song I've Got You is very special to me. It's the song I've dedicated to my son. And I'm really proud of that. It was written by Diane Warren and it's all real live instruments, which I love.
I was thrown by Lullaby. I was expecting it to be a kid's lullaby, but it's most certainly not!
I know right! That's an adult lullaby song! Oh yeah!
Jackie is out today.
Text Stuart Brumfitt