Ashanti’s ‘BraveHeart’: Album Review

Mar 4th, 2014 // 18 Comments
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Can Ashanti bet on herself? This question hangs over the R&B singer’s fifth album BraveHeart (out today, ) as she attempts to escape her past. She has yet to match the meteoric success of her 2002 self-titled debut — first-week sales of 503,000 copies, the biggest launch ever for a solo female artist — when she played a mafia princess, as imagined by her Murder Inc. label boss Irv Gotti. A winning tactic was to sing gently of heartache while borrowing soul samples, if not lyrics, from New York hip hop icons like Notorious B.I.G. (“Foolish”) and Jay Z (“Rain on Me”), choices that boosted her presence like bodyguards at her side. As shallow as this premise was, Ashanti hasn’t sounded as convincing since then.

BraveHeart is her first album released through the singer’s own label, Written Entertainment, and also the first without Gotti’s direction. It arrives after a few years of false starts; Ashanti recorded 60 songs, released several singles and dressed as a modern-day Aunty Entity only to scrap the look entirely. Along the way, she made an important discovery: “I’m not a great decision maker.” This confession underscores an unfortunate point: BraveHeart sounds as if Ashanti spent her time looking at what everyone else was doing, rather than looking inward.

The 33-year-old often sounds unsure of herself here as she tries to update her sound. She nearly disappears into “Count,” a strip club anthem that lifts the numbing repetition of Rihanna‘s “Cake.” She plagiarizes from Future‘s alien-transmission balladry, twice: Rapper French Montana coos with her in the spare “Early in the Morning,” as if he took copious notes from the Atlanta rapper’s gargling delivery in Rihanna’s “Loveeeeeee Song.” R&B singer Jeremih joins her for “Love Games,” a soulless carbon copy of Ciara duet (and highlight) “Where You Go.” As if that wasn’t offensive enough, Ashanti gasps and moans through her come-hithers as if faking an orgasm.

She’s more convincing when she sings of heartache, though not by much. In the stuttering torch song “3 Words,” she sings, “I love, I hate,” as if lazily picking through a field’s worth of flowers before she decides. She concludes the otherwise fine “Scars” with a stiff, puzzling spoken word of how she’s healing, a Cliff’s Notes assertion that only detracts from her delightfully vindictive lyrics (“And I’ma make sure I’m drop dead gorgeous / every time he see me, so he wants it more”). Although Ashanti promised that BraveHeart elaborates on her on-again, off-again relationship with rapper Nelly, she sings of indecision and does allude to infidelity, while otherwise singing of vague troubles, still guarded all the while.

In album context, BraveHeart‘s singles make for rare occasions where Ashanti proves she can handle making her own decisions. With “Never Should Have,” Ashanti assured that, for all the flack she’s gotten for having a softer voice (more than 20,000 people signed a petition protesting her win at the 2002 Lady of Soul Awards), she can belt through a stadium pop anthem with ease. In the Rick Ross-featuring “I Got It,” Ashanti’s voice darts and lands on a worthy assertion —  “I just like to celebrate my accolades — as if to say, “Who’s to stop me from taking over again, under my own terms?” Otherwise, BraveHeart doesn’t sound as if Ashanti’s in charge.

Idolator Score: 2/5

Christina Lee

What do you think of Ashanti’s return to music? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Braveheart is a really good album… If you skip the fist 8 tracks.

  2. ME

    I love it and she is a risk taker but that’s what life is about. KUDOS to my girl Ashanti… damn all the haters!

  3. Alright, Alright, Alright

    Poor review. Idolator is obviously biased as a comparison to other artists is in no way a review of an album. If we do comparisons of artists and what they sample and steal from each other, no artist would ever get a higher rating than a “2.” I would have respected this review more if the writer alluded to the difficulties in vocal arrangement or nuances in musical composition. Obviously the writer is not musically saavy and MUST have an ulterior motive. And for the record, I do not stan fro any artist, but I do recognize musicality and when musicians put forth their artistic best to produce a quality record. I also am aware that record companies have a vested interest in downplaying what Ashanti is doing as an independent artists, so I am well prepared for Media outlets to try to make their allegiances known. I just didn’t think Idolator was one of those media outlets, but I will remember to not visit this site going forward.

    • But what if you FORGET to remember? WHAT THEN!?!?

    • TheOuyonB

      I totally agree with you. And I bet she considers herself a “journalist”. Hidden agenda at its finest. The article was poorly written. She will never get a real job in journalism. She must be the unpaid intern.

  4. Marcinis

    This album is exactly what Ashanti needed. It’s a strong current sound that she’s incorporated her signature lyrics of sorrow and pain. She’s giving us real music that isn’t boring. She’s vulnerable, hurt, empowered, and Brave. The album is perfect, her voice is perfect. She took awhile, but it was well worth the wait.

  5. JWILL

    The only thing I gathered from this article is that Christina Lee needs a hearing aid, and maybe a better sense of taste. The least she did was acknowledge that Ashanti’s vocal range has gotten much stronger, but not without bringing up an online petition from 11 years ago. Idolator always seems to pick the utmost biased members to give album reviews. Review Score: 1.5/5

  6. Article seems very biased. I’m in no way, however, saying that her album was magnificent. Yes, it had flaws. Her producers and management are iffy, but all in all comeback score: 6/10 – she should’ve tried to sign with MMG to get that Mafia Princess thing going again.

  7. Desaree

    This review was TERRIBLE! Braveheart is a great album- one of her best. Not every song was perfect, but none of them were bad. Christina Lee is obviously biased. 2/5? Come on, now.

  8. teo

    I love Braveheart! And that’s been the general consensus from what I’ve seen…

  9. I actually love Braveheart and your review Christina Lee is absolutely terrible. Go get your life before the next thing you write all your respect and “opinion” will go down the drain with your career. She is an indie artist so there for her numbers are way totally different than majors. For a major every album sold they likely get $.45 cents. This chick gets $7 dollars. So please explain to me a major has to sell an equivalent of 2,000,000 millions records when she only needs to sell 50,000 copies. So numbers aren’t everything facts are. And she’s still winning?

  10. Ajohnson

    i LOVE braveheart go Ashanti!!!!!

  11. I don’t like this review for this album by any means. I believe that it focused moreso on her giving Ashanti backhanded compliments because of her inability to keep up with her own predecessing musical efforts and comparing her to dominating pop artists that have ruled the charts since her hiatus in 2008. It doesn’t focus on the lyrical content, production, or themes, it’s just an unsupportive opinion that does little to favor the singer’s effort. Braveheart is melodically militant as her honey whipped voice glides across each track with ease. Sure, it isn’t musically experimental, but Ashanti knows her lane, which is driven in the heart of Hip-Hop and R&B. Hardcore Ashanti fans will support this Braveheart movement because it’s something a kiss back to her past melodies yet crusades forth in contemporary R&B. Despite all the negative flack Ashanti may get, Ashanti will also be a prominent force in R&B. She’s back, braver than ever. Hate on, haters.

  12. KAREN KARLTON

    THE ALBUM IS HELLA WHACK. IT SOUNDS LIKE MUSIC FROM THE 90′S. NO EDGE TO IT AND THE BEATS ARE WHACK AS WELL. SHE NEEDS TO FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO WITH HER LIFE APPARENTLY SINGING ISN’T ONE.

  13. merp

    Idolator does rag on certain artist…it’s kind of annoying. How can you praise Paris Hilton and down Ashanti?

  14. Tiffini

    I actually enjoy Ashanti’s new album. I played it like twice. I do not think that it was her best album to date, compared to Declaration or Concrete Rose but it was a good album. And maybe that was the problem. She somehow makes “good” albums instead of the best, according to some. However, I loved “Scars” and do feel that maybe she hyped up this album too much but overall she did her thing for coming back to her R&B side and making music again. Score: 7/10

  15. KEEMA SHANELL

    AFTER PLAYING IT OVER AND OVER WITH SOME BASS, I HAVE DISCOVERED THAT I’M BEGINING TO LIKE A LOT OF HER SONGS, WHAT I LIKE MOST ABOUT THE ALBUM IS THAT SHE REALLY STAYED TRUE TO WHO SHE WAS, NO RAPPING NOT TOO GRIMMY

  16. sweetness

    I have been an ashanti fan since the beginning I love and still love her first album and every album since then I love braveheart it a really good album this writer I don’t know who she is but article is a very dumb and stupid attempt to down ashanti so she need to shut the hell up because she don’t know what good music is ashanti got alot of haters out their and this writer is one of them now the radio don’t play her songs and I don’t know why I listen to 97.9 and they just play the same songs over and over again so I get music on my tablet all and all I love ashanti alblum every song and those who don’t like so what I hope that won’t stop her their are going to be stupid comments but will it really hurt somebody to actually tell the truth the women can sing!

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