There are those artists that effortlessly remain at the top of their game. You know, the Rihannas and Beyonces of the game. Then there are people like Ashanti, who, five albums in still lay somewhere in between finding their niche and trying to remain relevant. After the lackluster performance of her last album, The Declaration, one would think that the self-proclaimed “Princess of R&B” would take some time to reflect on her career, maybe take some voice lessons. Instead, less than a year later, she attempts to bounce back with her fifth studio album, appropriately titled The Vault, released under AJM records.
The Vault contains 12 demo-worthy tracks written and recorded by Ashanti in from the late 90s to 2001, prior to signing with Murder Inc. in 2002. A bold attempt, no doubt, as Ashanti has never been highly regarded for her vocal chops, or her ability to pop, lock and drop it, even as a Grammy Award-winning, platinum-selling artist. So it makes you wonder why a label would take the time to actually market and sell her unrefined work.
This album, more than the others, fails at its attempt to carry its weight amongst the evolving world of R&B sensationalism. The first single, “Let’s Do Something Crazy,” produced by 15 year-old hot boy Miguel “Migs” Baeza features Flo-Rida. The dance track, undeniably one for the pop charts, is a bit edgier than fans are used to hearing from the breathy, melodic songstress. Flo-Rida brings nothing to the song, as his words all run together, making it hard to comprehend what he’s saying half of the time. “Satisfy,” also produced by Migs, is much like ‘Let’s Do Something Crazy” in that it takes Ashanti completely out of her comfort zone, and it’s obvious. She has a rough time keeping up with the tempo of the music and still sounding believable.
For the second single, “Imagine Life,” Ashanti worked with AJM’s in-house producer Kidd Kold, who has also worked with artists such as DMX and Foxy Brown. This sounds more like the Ashanti the world is used to, complete with the nasal voice and falsetto riffs as she sings about how in love she is with a guy. Kidd Kold provides the only gems on the album, producing seven other tracks on The Vault, including the sexy, soulful “Girls In The Movies,” which also appeared on Ashanti’s self-titled debut album, as well as the cozy hit “No Words,” in which she sings about a love that is so perfect that it renders her speechless.
Another noteworthy track is “To The Club,” where Ashanti taunts the females who bring their men to the clubs with them, while she enjoys herself because her man is at home. However simplistic, it’s a fun-loving track with a nice melody. While the album as a whole is sub-par, the pairing of Ashanti’s vocal style and Kidd Kold’s young, fresh production and sing-a-long melodies work to her advantage, making the album tolerable
The other seven songs on The Vault are not insignificant and quite frankly could have stayed there- in the vault. You can replay the first three songs off the album and get a comprehensive experience of the entire piece. This album was recorded almost a decade ago, and as a result, its relevance is non-existent. The content is juvenile, her voice is under-developed (not that that’s changed much), and the production isn’t nearly comparable to what listeners are accustomed to hearing today. Ashanti fans may like to have this as a collectible, but if you aren’t a member of her fan club, you’ll wish you saved your time and your money.
Out Of 5
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