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Ciara, Princess of Crunk

Lil Jon, Missy add flavor to teen dream's debut

October 20, 2004 12:00 AM ET
"I'm not a Barbie," says teen R&B sensation Ciara. "Just a regular around-the-way girl. I keep it cool. Keep it real." But unlike most regular girls, the eighteen-year-old Atlanta native (born Ciara Harris) possesses a Lil Jon-produced hit single, "Goodies," which shot her debut album of the same name to Number Three on the Top Forty chart. With a massive Dirty South beat and confident, knowing lyrics ("If you're looking for the goodies/Keep on looking, 'cause they stay in the jar"), the Crunk-&-B-style single gives off an undeniably sexy playfulness. "I'm kind of putting it down like a guy would," says Ciara. "This time it's in my control: 'This is what I want you to do.'"

Like Beyonce, to whom Ciara is often compared because of her gorgeous voice and dazzling good looks, the singer began her career in a prefab girl group, Hearsay, before breaking out as a solo artist. At age sixteen, after a year of writing songs for other artists, she hooked up with Atlanta producer Jazze Pha and began cutting a record of her own. "Whenever I sing about anything, I think it's important that it's something I can relate to, something I believe in," she says of her frank, liberated lyrics about sex and relationships.

For a newcomer, it's telling to see the roster of hip-hop heavyweights lending their voices to Ciara's album: Missy Elliott, Petey Pablo and Ludacris all appear on tracks, and R. Kelly wrote "Next to You" especially for the songstress. "I definitely make sure that I don't have guest features that overshadow me," she says. "They spice a record; they add a little seasoning to it. I'm the dressing, and they put a little gravy on it." Whether weaving her sassy-sweet choruses around Elliott's spitfire verse on the break-beat-heavy dance jam "1, 2 Step" or infusing the crunked-out Ludacris track "Oh" with an "all my ladies"-style girl-power edge, Ciara infuses each song with a sound that is all her own.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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