Third Time Is Not a Charm

The Rose that Fell to Concrete- Rating: C

Ashanti’s career has been lackluster in raw talent, but arguably abundant in good production with prevalent assistance from records past.  Concrete rose is no exception.

The album opens with the most ridiculous intro that has Ashanti unnecessarily explaining the title of her album and includes her self proclamation that this, her third album, is her best album to date because it includes "deeper lyrics" among other nonexistent elements

With fierce competition from new and old solo female artists like Beyonce and Alicia Keys, Ashanti probably felt like she needed to take her image to another level.  The release of  "Only U" led fans to believe that Ashanti may have reinvented herself into a more artistic artist with a more edgy sound, however this view is squashed in relation to the remaining 15 tracks on the album which stay true to her R&B but borderline pop sound.

The first song, "Still Down" featuring T.I., is catchy but even TI’s performance is not up to par.  Nonetheless, it, along with just about every track that follows is reminiscent of all of her past songs—like their predecessors, they continue to be less than stellar. 

"Message to the Fans" is the beginning of the many awful skits that should have been left out.  After "Only U," "Focus" is the first song worth listening to, but the mood quickly vacates when "Don’t Let Them" begins and continues on through "Love Again" which begs the question: why does Ashanti keep getting granted permission to run over old classics with her mediocrity?  "Love Again," "So Hot," "Sister Stories" and "Freedom" all contain samples from past popular songs from Scarface, Jodeci, Total and Notorious B.I.G, respectively.

Any attempted ballad, with the exception of "Take Me Tonight" featuring Lloyd, immediately encourages the listener to skip to the next song only to find the same problem throughout the entire lineup: Ashanti’s voice has not shown any improvement over the years. 

Frustration sets in again for the skit "Sister Stories," but the end of the album somewhat elevates the rest with "Freedom," which sends a motivational message and seems more personally related to Ashanti through her more personal delivery.  The last track, a remix to "Wonderful" features Ja Rule and is exactly what is expected of Ashanti—reminiscent of past collaborations with Ja Rule.

Ultimately, Ashanti’s underdeveloped vocals make many of the tracks irritating.  It is a task to listen to the entire album.  The production on many tracks is sketchy and could have benefited from better featured artists.