Singer Ciara 1, 2 Steps to Claremont

By Amanda Brawner ’07

It’s not everyday that Bridges Auditorium hosts an R&B sensation at the behest of her adoring fans. Even more unlikely is that the assistant dean of students would ask a senior to hang out backstage and interview that Grammy-winning star on behalf of CMC. Luckily, for yours truly, the stars aligned on Nov. 4 when Jim Nauls, director of student activities and residential director for apartments and housing, invited me to rub elbows with recording artist Ciara and her entourage.

Eagerly awaiting the doors to open on the evening of her performance, hundreds of Ciara’s fansfrom toddlers to students at every grade level plus chaperoning parentsformed curvy lines in front of Bridges. Before even meeting her, it was clear that The “Queen of Crunk & B’s” fan base knows no age limit.

During our backstage conversation, the pleasantly down-to-earth singer revealed strong family values. Outside of the music business, her grandmother’s influence is strongest. “She is just so full of life and spunk,” the humble singer said, grinning. “She’s so strong. She’s amazing.” Undoubtedly, Grandma was watching last Thursday when Ciara performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Although looking forward to the event, Ciara was detectably more excited for the “turkey day” dinner that was to follow.

Growing up an Army brat and living across the country prepared her well for a career in music, where life continues to be at least partly nomadic. “I grew up meeting people from all over,” she says, “people very different from myself.”

Despite the attitude her middle name “Princess” would suggest, the singer seems surprisingly low maintenance. Dressed fashionably and comfortably before the show, she changed to a sleeveless black T-shirt and sweatpants for her performance.

For all her seeming modesty, the Atlanta native’s debut album, Goodies, has made her a household name, selling nearly three million copies and launching three, top-10 singles, including 1, 2 Step. Her new album, Ciara: The Evolution hits stores on Dec. 5. “My favorite [song on Evolution] is I’m Just Me,” she says.

This was clear during her performance. Usually joined by a small troupe of dancers on stage, this was the only song Ciara performed that evening by herself, with lines like, I’m just ghetto; I’m just me.

If you’re looking for a chart-topper, however, listen for That’s Right with producer Lil’ Jon, who has made a name for himself on songs such as, Yeah and Get Low, in addition to Dave Chappelle’s infamous parody of the rapper’s seemingly limited vocabulary. “He’s crazy,” Ciara says of Lil’ Jon, “but he’s amazing, and so much fun to work with.”

Ciara says she now produces most of her own tracks. “It’s just within me,” she says. “I have a clear idea of where I want to go.”

The 21-year old singer/songwriter/producer has a vision of her future but doesn’t forget to enjoy the present. Having celebrated her birthday in October, she grins. “I’m not finished celebrating yet.”