Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Fantasia CD review

Fantasia Barrino
Label: J Records
7.0 out of 10
By Norman Mayers

Fantasia is arguably the most impressive singer to win the American Idol competition and probably the only winner that didn’t need the show. Her gritty vocals are strong enough to garner comparisons to Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige yet original enough to allow her to create her own sound. On her debut, 2004’s Free Yourself, Fantasia struggled to balance her R&B roots with her pop stardom. The album was watered down by several pop elements aimed at securing her more mainstream acceptance. On Fantasia, the singer delivers an album that is 100% contemporary soul and the work is better for it. Gone are the cheesy Idol references, replaced by dancefloor anthems, bass heavy midtempo soul, and quality throwback love songs. The result is a solid soul release that will please Fantasia’s fan base and appeal to listeners of R&B and dance pop.

Fantasia is most definitely an aggressive album, with many of the best tracks being club banging R&B anthems. The album opener “Hood Boy” featuring Big Boi of Outkast stands along any Beyonce track with its blaring horns and Supremes sample. Many of the album’s best cuts follow this template fusing 60s vibes with hip-hop beats. “Baby Makin’ Hips” is all cascading percussion and bottom end, fronted by Fantasia’s furiously sexy vocal. The beats keep coming on tracks like “Not The Way That I Do” and “I’m Not That Type” with both tracks aiming to secure club diva status to Fantasia. Of the up-tempo tracks one of the most delightful and original is “Bore Me (Yawn)” with its handclapping 60s vibe. The track brims with classic Motown energy and has crossover hit written all over it. Despite all the dance tracks, many of the albums memorable moments are the slower tracks, most notably the midtempo “When I See U”, with its pulsing groove, simple piano keys, and assured performance. The song is quite simple yet succeeds because of Fantasia’s strong presence, which adds a layer of complexity and emotion to the evocative production. Ballads like “Two Weeks Notice” and “Nominate U” work because of their clever lyrics with the latter equating bedroom prowess to an Oscar nominated performance and the former describing a break-up through the terms of quitting a dead-end job. Some of the tracks are not as dazzling as others but overall the album remains very consistent in quality.

With her second release Fantasia steps further away from her American Idol roots and becomes more of a competitor in the contemporary soul genre. What she ends up with is another solid release that once again validates the genius of the machine that is American Idol.


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