I originally intended to review The Eminem Show only, but while searching for track listings on the Internet, I remembered that not too long ago Ashanti came out with her self-titled debut, which included the recycled Notorious B.I.G. song (which he initially recycled from an old El Debarge sample), "Foolish." I figured it wouldn't hurt to download her CD as well - the only thing I had to lose was space on my hard drive. Once that was done with, the logical thing for me to do was to listen to both artists, back-to-back, to get a feel for their music. While Eminem had me bouncing off the walls, Ashanti was literally putting me in a coma. It's not that Ashanti is bad, but it becomes blatantly clear that both musicians focused on totally different themes for their CDs. For Ashanti, it's all about love, breaking up, loving some more, and then realizing that you've loved too much for your own good. It's an endless cycle.
The twenty-one year old Long Island native began her career at fourteen, when she signed on with Jive Records. She left the label for Epic Records, but even there couldn't get a record deal. She eventually found herself at Murder Inc., where head Irv Gotti turned her into an instant success. Ashanti's first release was a Big Pun single, "How We Roll." Since then, she's tag-teamed on Ja Rule's "Always on Time" and Fat Joe's "What's Luv," and co-wrote Jennifer Lopez's "Ain't It Funny" before releasing her own CD. She had the highest first week sales for a solo female artist, pushing 502,000 copies. And yes, Ashanti does have a last name - it's Douglas.
The first single off Ashanti, Foolish, sets the tone for the whole CD. In it, Ashanti sings of a dysfunctional relationship, which she can't leave. Most of the songs on the CD deal with the theme of relationships, specifically bad relationships. Hey girl, just get up and leave already! The other half includes your typical love songs - mushy lyrics intertwined with slow, slow beats. In one especially sappy song, Movies, Ashanti sings, "I wanna be like those girls in the movies, to have a man so in love he drops to his knees…'cause that's the feeling you've given me." Uh, yeah.
Don't get me wrong, there are some good songs on Ashanti. Leaving (Always on Time Part II), a duet with Ja Rule, rivals Part I's smooth beats. Happy sounds a lot like an old Mary J. Blige track and is the only upbeat song in the whole CD (hence the coma part). Rescue, Baby and VooDoo are also decent, and if anything, they grow on you the more you listen to them. And Fight (Over Skit) reminded me a lot of the kinds of fights my ex-boyfriend and I used to have. Ha! But I left his foolish ass instead of singing about it. In Unfoolish, Ashanti talks about coming to her senses and leaving the relationship. Although it's just basically a re-mix of "Foolish," this is my favourite track by far.
On the flip side, the most hated track by far is Dreams, where Ashanti sings, "Dreams are real…all you have to do is just believe." Well, thanks for the advice. On top of the clichéd lyrics, children sing the chorus with her. I know it's sweet and all, and children are our future, but if I wanted to listen to children sing I would have bought Kidz Bop Vol. II.
Ashanti has made a strong debut, but could do better. Most tracks are sung with such a soft voice you have to wonder when Ja Rule is going to step in and steal the song. Only in Thank You, a short a capella interlude, does Ashanti let it all out. It would have been better if she had done this throughout the CD, not only in the last song. The tracks are also very repetitive. After listening to the CD twice, I could remember all the words to the chorus and nothing else. Ashanti has potential (she wrote or co-wrote all the songs, which would explain the lyrics), but she has to be more confident about it in order to show the world what she's really capable of. ¤ C.Ho.
ASHANTI: (out of 5)