How Ciara learned self-love on Beauty Marks, her boldest album yet
Ciara's Beauty school
Eight months into her second pregnancy, Ciara began working on her most sonically diverse album to date, Beauty Marks (out now), with three goals in mind: "Inject love, inspire, and make the world dance." Ahead, the 33-year-old weighs in on the songs that fulfilled her vision for a boss mama's empowered state of mind — and provides recommended activities for fans to perform while listening to each track!
"I was literally breastfeeding and writing music at the same time," Ciara says of the song — the first one she wrote for Beauty Marks, but one of the last she actually recorded. "It’s one of my favorite songs of my whole career." She says the titular ballad captures her refreshed perspective on unconditional love after she learned to view the emotional scars she has accrued over the years as a portrait of resilience. "These moments sum up the journey of my life; I'm smarter, stronger, and wiser because of them."
CIARA'S RECOMMENDED SONG MOOD: "This is a song you play at your wedding for the love of your life! It can also be played to inspire others, so share the song with your friends!"
"Thinkin' Bout You"
Bathed in sunny synths, airy ‘80s strings, and... bird squawks (yes!), this breezy ditty marks a sonic departure from the hard bass of Ciara’s signature R&B sound. She also balances the lightness of its bubbly pop production with dark lyrics about romantic paranoia. “You can’t stop thinking about them and wondering what they’re thinking,” she observes of the early stages of courtship, which provided the lyrical foundation for the song. “You get curious, right? You’re like, contain the crazy!”
CIARA'S RECOMMENDED SONG MOOD: "You blast this song in your house. You have fun; a brush or a broomstick becomes your microphone! Let go and get lost in the glee of this record. The other action you can do is get lost on a dance floor; get lost in the zone and let the bassline take you away!"
The high-energy banger "Level Up" fueled the tank on Ciara's road to self-love. "I want to make people dance, but I want them to dance to something," she says, savoring the breakneck-paced bop's message of "becoming your own boss" at any age. Now her kids, Future, 4, and Sienna, 2, love the song (and frequently request that it soundtracks their morning groove sessions while Mom prepares breakfast). "They're like my A&R," Ciara continues. "When they react to a song, they let me know if it's going to work or not."
CIARA'S RECOMMENDED SONG MOOD: "The perfect song to lip-sync to on RuPaul's Drag Race! Also: working out! Play this song loud in the gym. The act of committing is key to this song, whether you’re dancing or working out."
Stark sounds of the Japanese shamisen combine with ultra-heavy bass to make this strut-worthy swag song (a fiery, bossed-up domination proclamation) Beauty Marks' fiercest cut. But, Ciara wanted to balance the song's intensity by adding an adorable closer featuring her daughter, Sienna. "She says 'Ayy!' [at the end]," Ciara reveals. "She kept saying that during the song, because I did it a few times. So, I put her on the microphone!"
CIARA'S RECOMMENDED SONG MOOD: "Treat all your shoe boxes like the bank! Go attack the day! Make some boss moves. Make your next move your best move. Boss all the way up!"
If you want to love Miss CiCi, you've got to love all of Miss CiCi — and that includes both of her children. That's why "Greatest Love" — a sultry R&B ballad — contains lyrics about her husband, NFL player Russell Wilson, accepting her son as his own. "When I was a single mom, I tried to map out life going forward. You never know what that’s like until it’s just you and your child, trying to figure it all out," she admits. "When a new person would come into my life, loving me also meant loving my son, so, loving my son meant you loved me! That’s what my husband did from day one: He jumped right in, changing diapers! He’s been there every step of the way."
CIARA's RECOMMENDED SONG MOOD: "If singing isn’t your thing, you still play this song loud and dedicate it to your love! It’s deep, but sexy, so you can dance to this song for your man! You can lip-sync for your love!"
"Girl Gang" (feat. Kelly Rowland)
Though much of Beauty Marks sees Ciara departing from her signature R&B sound, Goodies-era CiCi returns over the heavy beat of "Girl Gang," an island-tinged, feminist anthem featuring Kelly Rowland. "I called her and said I had a song that'd be dope for us. Within a few days, she was in the studio," Ciara says of bringing her friend aboard the track, which celebrates the "sisterhood" of all womankind. "She's a mom too, so it's also a shout-out to those hardworking women making it happen as mamas!"
CIARA'S RECOMMENDED SONG MOOD: "Ride out with your girls to a club or party! This is the song you blast with them, singing at the top of your lungs!"