"At first glance, Ashanti seems to have the ingredients needed to be a legitimate, top-tier R&B diva — the designer-clad look, a platinum-selling pedigree and a resonant, if not booming, voice. But big name soul sisters such as Mary J. Blige, Mariah, or Beyonce need not look over their shoulders. Despite Ashanti's attributes, it's hard to identify what sets her apart.
On her fourth solo album, "The Declaration," Ashanti operates without frequent collaborator Ja Rule or her former mentor/producer Irv Gotti. Instead, she attempts to assert her own identity. Yet the disc doesn't manage to break any new ground, with Ashanti singing mainly over unremarkable contemporary R&B tracks about her own good loving and cheating boyfriends. The single, "The Way That I Love You" — and its revenge fantasy video — shows Ashanti's potential, with the track's tumbling piano notes and her belted vocals that exhibit believable anguish.
But the woman-scorned sentiment grows tiresome when revisited on the synth-pop of "Your Gonna Miss" and again on the anthemic high-pitched keys of the Rodney Jerkins-produced "So Over You." Meanwhile, her forays into sexy-soul territory ("Good Good" and "Body On Me" with Akon and Nelly) seem to undermine the good-girl balladry ("Mother" and "Shine") tacked on near disc's end. On the disc's intro she states, "I'm declaring me." But next time out, she'll need to dig deeper to reveal a more evolved Ashanti."
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Ashanti ups her hot-girl quotient a notch, professing to be "the bad girl that loves to get in trouble" while Robin Thicke adds his breathy falsetto to the sultry "Things You Make Me Do."- CHINA DAILY