Consider, in about 15 years time The Declaration along with Ashanti's previous albums, will be deemed "old school." Either an intriguing or disturbing possibility depending on the individual music preference. Regardless, like Chante Moore, Monica, Aaliyah, and Brandy before her, Ashanti occupies that slippery slope of modern R&B. A field that can be kind or cruel to its inhabitants.
Ashanti is no longer the "hottest" young lady on the block, but what someone deems as "hot or not" will not make a difference as long as they put out quality product. The Declaration, Ashanti's fourth long player, presents growth, a staple for longevity in any genre of music.
Likely her last album on Murder Inc., the label that made her their female figurehead, Ashanti has gotten her artistic wind as it were. Barring a few dalliances with longtime creative partner Channel 7 (formerly Aurelius 7), Ashanti ventured out to secure other producers for this record. She brought back with her Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Jermaine Dupri, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and L.T. Hutton. Ashanti herself also stepped up to the production, writing, arranging processes on the album, demonstrating her control extends beyond what knob twirlers she could gather.
Leading off with the barefaced ache of "The Way That I Love," the chafe of unfaithfulness is apparent in an astonishing vocal given by Ashanti. Before, her candy spun voice was pleasant, now it has become much more full and rounded. Prepare for your sugar high to be extended on this album.
The double slap of feminine empowerment shown in the bursts of "You're Gonna Miss" and "So Over You." The songs have Ashanti borrowing notes from Cherrelle's Affair (1988) as she takes her best late '80's R&B stance on wayward men. The powdery "Good Good" sounds like it would've been at home on any of Mariah Carey's last three LPs, the difference is that Ashanti is able to carry the flirty silliness a bit better. The late night ambiance of "Things You Make Me Do," featuring blue-eyed crooner Robin Thicke, is doe-eyed sensuality done well.
Directed By: Melina Matsoukas
The Declaration is succinct coming in at 13 tracks, by the time you reach the end, you may find yourself wondering where the filler was? There are a two duds in "Mother" and the title track, but they don't distract enough to remove the girlish aftertaste of the previous songs. Shaping up to be a modest hit in terms of sales, it has given Ashanti the much coveted prize of longevity. Even if she never records another album after this, she can be proud that The Declaration beckons with progression before anything else. Four stars out of five.-QH
[Editor's Note: For more current information on Ashanti, visit www.ashantithisisme.com-QH]