Ciara, R&B’s still-reigning princess, is taking a dark, psychedelic turn with her new song, featured in The Last Witch Hunter. For the action film starring Vin Diesel, out October 23rd, the singer tackles the Rolling Stones’ bewitching “Paint It Black,” and reimagines it as a syrupy, mesmerizing slow-burner. Hear the track below, and read Ciara’s thoughts on the Stones, Missy Elliott and what comes next after Jackie.
Is “Paint It Black” a song that you’ve wanted to cover for a while now?
No, to be honest with you, it was actually a surprise for me when I got the call from ABKCO Publishing and Lionsgate. When they asked me to do this, I was like, “Absolutely. This would be an honor.” I had never thought to cover this song. It was never on my radar to cover it, but when the opportunity came along, I was very thrilled, because I love what the producer Adrianne Gonzales did. The direction that she went in was actually a sound I’ve always wanted to play with, and it just didn’t get any better than being able to cover a Rolling Stones song. I feel like it pushes the edge and the limit for me, in reference to what people probably expect from me. So this was so many cool things in one. It was a huge honor, and then creatively I just got to really have some fun that I don’t usually do in my music.
I feel like I’ve been hearing a psychedelic-rock revival in R&B and hip-hop, from A$AP Rocky’s album to Beyoncé covering the Doors at Made in America. Is that a direction you want to explore?
As an artist, I think it’s important to always keep growing, and I definitely want to keep challenging myself. When moments like this come along, they’re the perfect opportunity because they allow me to discover something new creatively. I definitely was inspired from the process, and I know that I will be working with Adrianne more. But also, I think that music is also in a very cool time where everyone’s being very expressive, and it kind of also has a retro thing happening where hints of the old school are starting to come back into today’s music. This is one of those cool moments where it reminds you of how great music was, how people are really experimenting right now and how it’s cool to be able to do that today. And so our new generation of fans and people, the people that really paved the way for all of us artists, like the Rolling Stones …
Are you a fan of the Rolling Stones?
I’ve been a fan of theirs. I wasn’t a fan to know every song of theirs, but I definitely have been a fan of the Rolling Stones, but it’s just so cool when a moment like this comes along.
How does the song play into The Last Witch Hunter? Have you gotten to see the film with the song in it?
Oh, it is so cool! I got to see it, and I had goosebumps when I saw my name in the end credits and where it says “song performed by Ciara.” “The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’ performed by Ciara” is pretty darn cool. It was really cool to see that, and the movie was really awesome. I really enjoyed it. It was honestly a perfect film, and then the song being the end-title song, it was really super cool. When you see this great story and then the period at the end of the story is a song you sung that’s by the Rolling Stones. It is pretty cool!
I know you’ve done a little bit of acting in movies before. Is that something that you would want to go back to in the future?
I definitely want to get more active in the film world. My experiences I’ve had thus far have been really fun and I definitely feel my best is yet to come in that world. It’s a world that I haven’t really tapped into a lot and I want to do a whole lot more. [Hoping for] a whole lot more in television and film.
I know Jackie just came out this year, but are you starting to think of a follow-up?
Well, I’m preparing for my second leg of the Jackie tour, that I’ll be doing with TopShop, who are actually sponsoring my tour. But right now, I’m really focused on the tour and there are a few cool things pending. My fans always get mad at me when I say, “I’ll tell you about it soon,” so that won’t be the best thing to say! But there are some very cool things pending, and I’m super excited about them.
You have a pretty hefty roster of collaborators from across your career, but Missy Elliott is definitely at the top. Now that she’s hinted at her own comeback, any chance you’ll be assisting with that?
That whole creative idea and option will never be ruled out, you know. What Missy and I have is very special, and it’s fun when I get to collaborate with her like on Jackie. I would say never rule out a Ciara and Missy collaboration because we do have such a great chemistry musically, and when us two get together, it’s always insane energy. So I’m always down for that opportunity to get together, always down for that.
“Never rule out a Ciara and Missy collaboration because we do have such a great chemistry musically, and when us two get together, it’s always insane energy.”
Who are some of your favorite artists at the moment?
I’m an old soul. I’m listening to a lot of old school music, but I was in Belgium recently and I really loved European music. I wouldn’t say a specific name of an artist because the playlist was kind of random. I like elevator music per se. I like the old school. I actually have been on a Luther kick and Sade kick, and if I could say from your generation, I think that what the Weeknd is doing is awesome. I think that Drake is awesome. I don’t know — I don’t listen to the radio that much. I really am an old-soul kind of girl.
I feel like a lot of artists, especially when they’re in a more personally creative space, tend to avoid, sometimes consciously and sometimes accidentally, listening to the radio and listening to music. Do you find that recording or writing, you sort of stay away from that so it doesn’t influence you too much?
It’s very true. You don’t want to do what you’re hearing. You don’t hear it so much you accidentally do what you’re hearing. For me, I like old-school rap music. There was a time when music was so, so rich overall, and the content of what people talked about was so deep on every level, song-for-song, pound-for-pound, and on radio, there was so much content. I gravitate more towards that type of music, to be honest.
I think the new generation of music is in an interesting place because there’s so many emerging artists, like super-duper cool, fresh content. At the same time, there are also songs that are more so surface-type records, songs that don’t really say too much for my soul personally. It’s a really interesting time, and exciting time, because there are so many artists and I feel like everyone’s being so expressive. I’m kind of finding out new ways of expressing myself, and that’s exciting.