While she may be the self-proclaimed princess of R&B, Ashanti has struggled to gain the critical accolades needed to go along with her impressive sales figures. With her third album, Concrete Rose, Ashanti takes some steps in the right direction; however, for the most part her effort is simply a rehash of her two previous albums.
The highlights of Concrete Rose definitely display Ashanti's growth and progression over the years. The only problem is these attempts are too far in between. The lead single "Only U" finds Ashanti taking a risk with a rock-influenced sound, which thankfully works out well. Ashanti sounds better than ever over Seven Aurelius smashing guitar riffs and ambient sirens, making for one of her best efforts yet. The Saturday night party anthem "Turn It Up" featuring Ja Rule is a funky Curtis Mayfield inspired jam that is packed with flavor on top of flavor. In addition, "Don't Leave Me Alone" is a hit waiting to happen and would be a perfect change of pace single for Ashanti. The track's plotting beat, sensual guitar plucks and harmonized hook makes the track ooze with powerful emotion.
While Concrete Rose may feature some of Ashanti's finest work to date, the majority of the album is plagued with the same mistakes her first two albums suffered from. The continual jacking of classic Hip Hop production, which has been Ashanti's trademark, once again drags down her album considerably. Scarface is once again a victim of this jacking for the "Fuck Faces" inspired "Love Again". Ashanti even takes the pleasure of utilizing Devin The Dudes classic hook, making for a completely unoriginal and coerced effort. Things only get worse on "U", as Ashanti ruins Jodeci's classic "Freek 'N You Remix" by borrowing the groups beat and lyrics. Whether it is paying homage or not, Ashanti needs to provide a little more originality instead of copying what other artists have laid before her. Other original, but bland attempts, such as "Every Lil' Thing", "So Hot" and "Still Down" featuring T.I., all suffer from lackluster production as well.
If Ashanti intends to destroy the misconceptions surrounding her she is going to have to ditch the tiresome formula she utilizes for every album. Ashanti needs to focus on making original material first and leave the jacking of Hip Hop and R&B classics alone. If not Ashanti will only be remember for what she could not do, instead of it being the other way around.