Ciara

Beauty Marks

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Out of the major-label system, Ciara starts a new chapter with her own label and first album in four years. She retreads just about every move she has made before, even though the crop of new fellow songwriters and producers almost outnumbers the familiar likes of Ester Dean, Pierre Medor, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Rodney Jerkins, Jasper Cameron, and Theron Thomas. Beauty Marks begins unsteadily with a reflective pop ballad that, despite being one of its most personal songs, features a disruptive guest verse from Macklemore. Still, the ballads -- more specifically the love songs -- easily prevail over the up-tempo numbers, not one of which is a match for the singer's previous dancefloor conquests. The best of the reunions occurs with Cameron and Thomas on "Greatest Love," a glimmering devotional slow jam with Ciara delivering one of her most stirring vocals. Among the new collaborators is Skylar Grey, who co-writes and produces the title song, a piano-and-cello finale on which Ciara sounds fulfilled and recharged.

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