Braveheart (Ashanti album)

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Braveheart
Studio album by Ashanti
Released March 4, 2014 (2014-03-04)
Recorded 2010–14
Genre R&B
Length 52:29
Label
Producer
Ashanti chronology
  • BraveHeart
  • (2014)
Singles from Braveheart
  1. "Never Should Have"
    Released: March 25, 2013 (2013-03-25)
  2. "I Got It"
    Released: February 11, 2014 (2014-02-11)
  3. "Early In The Morning"
    Released: October 14, 2014 (2014-10-14)
  4. "First Real Love"
    Released: May 4, 2015 (2015-05-04)

Braveheart is the fifth studio album by American recording entertainer Ashanti. Released on March 4, 2014, it is her first album in six years, since The Declaration (2008) and her first since leaving Murder Inc.. In 2012, Ashanti formed her own record label Written Entertainment, which was independently distributed worldwide by eOne Music.

"Never Should Have" was used in the season 7 finale of the TV show Army Wives, which Ashanti starred in. Despite not charting, the song was the only previously released single to be included on the album. On November 26, 2013, Ashanti released "I Got It", featuring Rick Ross in support of the album. French Montana, Jeremih, Rick Ross and Beenie Man are all featured on the album too. Upon release, the album garnered favorable reviews, with music critics describing Braveheart‍ '​s sound as an "evolution of R&B" and praising the themes of empowerment, but criticizing the romantic clichés and lack of interesting moments on the album. On the charts, Braveheart opened at number ten on the U.S. Billboard 200, becoming Ashanti's fifth consecutive top-ten album, as well as her first Independent Albums chart topper. It also debuted in the top-thirty of the UK R&B Albums Chart and top-forty of the UK Indie Albums Chart.

Background[edit]

On June 3, 2008, Ashanti released her fourth album The Declaration,[1] which spawned the singles "The Way That I Love You", "Body on Me" (with Akon & Nelly) and "Good Good". The first peaked within the top-forty on the Billboard Hot 100, whilst "Body on Me" peaked at number forty-two; "Good Good" managed to reach the top-forty on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. These singles became the lowest charting amongst Ashanti's career thus far.[2][3] Whilst The Declaration peaked at number six and sold 86,000 copies in its first week, Concrete Rose (2004) reached number seven with 254,000 copies sold.[4] The Declaration became her first album to not to be certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[5] Just under a year later in May 2009 Irv Gotti, the president of Ashanti's label Murder Inc., told MTV News that Ashanti's affiliation with the label was over. He said "The relationship has run its course. The chemistry of what's needed — we're in two totally different places. You're talking to somebody that took her and shaped and molded her and put her out there for the world, and it blew up. We [hold the record] for the [fastest] selling debut by a female R&B artist — 503 [thousand]. We did it! My views and philosophies and her views and philosophies are not meeting up."[6]

Production[edit]

In February 2010, Ashanti begun work in recording studios for a brand new album,[7] and in December the same year, Ashanti confirmed that fans could expect new music in 2011.[8] In July 2011, a promo picture was released announcing that new music was on the way and a brand new single was due in August 2011.[9] On July 26, 2011, Ashanti announced that her fifth album would be the first to be independently released via her own newly established record label, Written Entertainment.[10] Details of the label and distribution came out in December, when it was unveiled that Written Entertainment would be independently distributed worldwide through eOne Music.[11][12] In a press release, the President of eOne Music, Alan Grunblatt said: "eOne is proud to have a partnership with Ashanti and her label Written Entertainment. Ashanti truly has the independent entrepreneurial attitude that eOne was built on, and we're thrilled to be working with her."[13] Ashanti added, "I'm so excited to have my own record label, Written Entertainment. With eOne as my distributor, I feel that their innovative and ambitious approach to the music industry, really gives my label a worldwide presence. They have the top radio people in the business and are hungry to win! The more I learned the business the more I knew this is what I wanted. Ownership is so important. As a business woman this was a great move for me!"[11]

During an interview on 106 & Park, Ashanti stated that there would be two collaborations on the album, one with a male vocalist and one with a female vocalist; Boombox later revealed that the male artist was R. Kelly and the female was Keyshia Cole.[14] Ashanti worked with R. Kelly ("That's What We Do"), Rico Love ("Perfect So Far"), and Keyshia Cole ("Woman to Woman").[15] In total, Ashanti recorded sixty songs for the album.[16]

Title and artwork[edit]

In an interview with Power 99 FM in Los Angeles, Ashanti explained how the Oscar-winning film Braveheart inspired her album title. "The metaphor that I took was basically in the movie you have the Europeans, you have the soldiers from London and the U.K.," she said. "They have the big horses, they have the shields, the guns, the weapons... They're all armored up. And then you have the Scots. They're all raggedy, homemade weapons, and paint on their faces. It's not an even playing ground, so I feel like with the [major labels], they're bossed up. They have the big engine and all the artists signed to them and with the indies, it's depending. It's homemade, it's homegrown. It's a lesser engine. So the metaphor I was using was being brave and putting your blood and guts into it and fighting passionately to win."[17] The album's artwork was released on 22 March 2012 the artwork was described as "The warrior princess strikes a bold pose on the dramatic cover art."[17] The image used is a screenshot from the music video for "The Woman You Love"; it was later revealed on April 13, 2013 that Ashanti flew out to Atlanta to shoot a brand new artwork with photographer Robert Ector.[18] In January 2014, the singer unveiled the brand-new album artwork on her official Instagram account.[19]

Composition[edit]

Sound and influence[edit]

Ashanti spoke on the influences of the album, also explaining how the Oscar-winning film Braveheart inspired her album title. "The metaphor that I took was basically in the movie you have the Europeans, you have the soldiers from London and the U.K.," she said. "They have the big horses, they have the shields, the guns, the weapons... They're all armored up. And then you have the Scots. They're all raggedy, homemade weapons, and paint on their faces. It's not an even playing ground, so I feel like with the [major labels], they're bossed up. They have the big engine and all the artists signed to them and with the indies, it's depending. It's homemade, it's homegrown. It's a lesser engine. So the metaphor I was using was being brave and putting your blood and guts into it and fighting passionately to win."[15]

Songs and lyrics[edit]

The album opens with a monologue introduction spoken by Ashanti in which she says; "A lot of people counted me out and that feeds my hunger and ignites my passion to continue my journey, I will continue to thrive, continue to prosper, I will continue to be brave. I am Braveheart."[20] "She Can't" was produced by Mansur, which was described as a sexy mid-tempo number with a chaotic beat. "Never Should Have" which was also produced by Mansur, sees the singer cooing over a former lover she now regrets over a marching band-driven beat.[21] Rico Love co-wrote the guitar-laden track "Perfect So Far".[21]

Promotion and release[edit]

Ashanti performed "The Woman You Love" live on Good Morning America on February 13, 2012,[22] and also performed the song on April 17, 2012 as the musical guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.[23] Over a year later, in June 2013, Ashanti took to the stage of Marie to perform "Never Should Have" live for the first time.[24] "Never Should Have" along with snippets of "She Can't" and "I Got It" (featuring Future) all featured on DJ Ty Boogie's Str8 RnB pt. 6 mixtape, hosted by Ashanti.[25] On July 30, 2013, the date BraveHeart was supposed to be released, Ashanti confirmed that the album would now be released in September 2013. Via her Instagram account she posted a new promotional picture and said, "Hey y'all! So Braveheart is NOT coming out today we have clearances & legalities to take of... It costs to be the boss!!!".[26] The album was then slated for release in early 2014, preceded by the single "I Got It" featuring rapper Rick Ross.[27] Originally set for a February 18 release,[28][29] the album was released on March 4, 2014.[30][31]

Singles[edit]

On December 15, 2011, "The Woman You Love" featuring American rapper Busta Rhymes was unveiled as the album's lead single.[32] The song which samples Cream's single "White Room" was released for digital download a day later.[33] Trent Fitzgerald of Popcrush wrote "This song is a great start for Ashanti" and expressed great interest in "what she is going to bring in 2012 now that she is an independent woman".[34] The video premiered on BET's 106 & Park on March 13, 2012 and peaked at number 5 on April 23, 2012.[35] "The Woman You Love" debuted at number ninety-seven on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for the week of January 7, 2012.[36] Three weeks later the song re-entered at number ninety-five for the week of January 28, 2012.[37] An "R&B Mix" of the song, sans Busta Rhymes, was released on February 14, 2012.[38] "The Woman You Love" peaked at number fifty-nine.[39] According to Ashanti's website, On March 25, 2013, a brand new song titled "Never Should Have" was released for digital download.[40] The official music video was filmed in March 2013 by director Sanji.[41] The song impacted US Rhythmic and Urban radio on April 29, 2013.[42][43] After it was announced that the album was pushed back from July 30, 2013, Ashanti announced that two exclusive remixes, The JButtah and AllStyle Remixes of "Never Should Have" would be released and promoted to radio stations.[44] Despite not charting, "Never Should Have" won Ashanti a 2013 Soul Train Music Award for Best Independent R&B/Soul Performance.[45] The album's next single "I Got It" featuring Rick Ross, was made available for purchase via iTunes on November 26, 2013.[27][46] It was sent to US urban contemporary radio stations on January 28, 2014.[47] On February 20, 2014, Rap-Up confirmed that "First Real Love" would be the album's next music video.[48] However, in April 2014, during an interview with Mike Wass for Idolator, Ashanti said she was going with "Early in the Morning" featuring French Montana as the album's next single after its skyrocketing performance on the US iTunes R&B Chart.[49]

In July 2014, Ashanti announced that future official singles from Braveheart would be voted on by fans.[50]

Reception[edit]

Critics response[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[51]
HipHopDX 3/5 stars[52]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[53]
USA Today 2.5/4 stars[54]

Upon its release, BraveHeart was met with generally positive from music critics. Jon Reyes of HipHopDX gave the album three out of five stars, saying "Needless to say the female R&B paradigm continues to evolve. Even the game changers have had to make adjustments in regards to their creative output. There's a needed "wow factor" with every move made coupled with material that'll elicit some emotional connection, the way Jhené Aiko's latest Sail Out EP has done. Braveheart has a few of those moments that demonstrate sonic evolution and connectedness. Though it is concise and cohesive, more than any of Ashanti's albums, it's still marred with glimpses of wanted grandiosity at the expense of artistic revelation. Brave would have been sacrificing that wanted grandiosity."[52] Andy Kellman of AllMusic gave the album four out of five stars, saying "Although it took longer to complete than Ashanti, Chapter II, and Concrete Rose combined, Braveheart doesn't sound like it. More importantly, The Declaration's lack of success -- relative to those previous albums -- doesn't seem to have changed Ashanti's direction one bit."[51] At USA Today, Elysa Gardner rated the album two-and-a-half stars out of four, stating that "Ashanti defies and succumbs to romantic clichés, her piquant soprano alternately teasing and sulking, lashing out and standing firm."[54]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 28,000 copies in the United States.[55]

Track listing[edit]

Standard edition
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Intro" / "Braveheart"  
  • Greene
  • Alexander
  • Randolph (co.)
5:23
2. "Nowhere"   Douglas
3:02
3. "Runaway"  
  • Douglas
  • Tasha King
  • Roxanne Porter
  • James Brown
  • Lynn Collins
  • Daniels
  • Akil King
  • Jean Claude Olivier
  • Slater
  • Luke
  • James Todd Smith[57]
  • Slater
  • Luke
  • Fresh (vocals)
  • Daniels
3:10
4. "Count"   Noel Fisher[58] Detail 2:53
5. "Early in the Morning" (featuring French Montana) Ernesto Shaw[59]
4:07
6. "3 Words"  
  • Douglas
  • King
  • Porter
  • Hutton
L.T. Hutton 3:23
7. "Love Games" (featuring Jeremih) Timothy Bullock[60] Timothy Bullock 4:12
8. "Scars"  
  • Douglas
  • King
  • Porter
  • Hutton
  • Hutton
  • Randolph (co.)
5:49
9. "Never Should Have"  
Zafr 3:58
10. "She Can't"  
  • Douglas
  • Zafr
Zafr 3:44
11. "Don't Tell Me No"   Zafr 3:49
12. "I Got It" (featuring Rick Ross)
  • Douglas
  • King
  • Porter
  • Hutton
Hutton 4:06
13. "First Real Love" / "Outro" (featuring Beenie Man)
  • Teetimus
  • Greene[63]
  • Teetimus
  • Greene
  • Alexander ("Outro")
4:53
Notes
  • "Runaway" features an interpolation of "Put It on the Line", written by James Brown and Gloria Lyn Collins. It also contains interpolations of "I Shot Ya", as written by Brown, Collins, Jean Claude Olivier and James Todd Smith.[70]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart
  • Peak
  • position
UK Indie Albums (OCC)[71] 40
UK R&B Albums (OCC)[72] 29
U.S. Billboard 200[73] 10
U.S. R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[74] 4
U.S. Independent Albums (Billboard)[73] 1

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United States[30][31] March 4, 2014
United Kingdom Digital download[75] eOne Music
March 24, 2014 CD[76]
Japan[64] March 26, 2014
  • CD
  • digital download

References[edit]

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