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Review: Fantasia Barrino's "Fantasia"

Bold & Brassy

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Review: Fantasia Barrino's

"Fantasia" cover © J Records.

Most of the former "American Idol" winners who have released albums so far have tried to keep their music all-ages friendly and not offend anyone in the wide spectrum of people who helped them win the talent contest. But on her self-titled second album, Fantasia completely steps out of the "American Idol" shadow and makes it clear that she's her own woman now. Fantasia's new album is strong, saucy, sassy, bold and brassy, just like her. Although she still has a way to go before she completely reaches her potential, she's miles ahead of most of the other ex-"American Idol" contestants when it comes to getting there.

Powerful & Compelling

'American Idol" season three winner Fantasia Barrino took a greater role in crafting her self-titled second album, and it definitely shows. Where her debut album, 2004's Free Yourself, was relatively safe and commercial, Fantasia is more free and in-your-face, and better reflects her personality and vocal style.

The first single, "Hood Boy," is a perfect example. On the song, which features OutKast's Big Boi, she talks about her love for rugged men. Although the same theme has been utilized - and re-utilized in R&B and Hip-Hop for years (going back to MC Lyte's 1993 hit "Roughneck," and beyond), 'Tasia still breathes new life into the concept.

She also keeps it real on numerous other songs, and tackles subject matter that may shock some of the older folks in Middle America whose hearts she won on "American Idol." For instance, on "I Nominate You," she sings about making love and her satisfaction with a man:

"Lets keep the lights on 'cause tonight I wanna watch you perform, watch your perform, let me see what you got for your girl now, baby. When I turn you on, you still the show, boy you should get an award."

And believe it or not, she gets grimy and talks greasy on the Kwame-produced "The Way That I Do." On the uptempo club banger she puts a man in place and tells him who's running the show: "She might be the type to let you run all over her, but that's just not the way that I do, Believe me, if I let you get a sniff of the whiff, you gon' do things the way that I do."

"Baby Makin' Hips"

Fantasia Barrino photo © J Records.

And on the uptempo "Baby Makin' Hips," she gives props to real women with curves. The song, which Fantasia herself has compared to music by Tina Turner and a young Aretha Franklin, is the same sort of anthemic, empowering jam that made "Baby Mama" from Fantasia's first album so popular. The song, produced by the duo Dre & Vidal, is not only the best song on the album, but also one of the better R&B songs of the year.

All-in-all, there are no weak songs on the album, just some that are stronger than others. In addition to "Baby Makin' Hips," other outstanding songs include the fun "Uneligible," which is about a lack of good, eligible men; "I Feel Beautiful," a wedding song written for Fantasia's mother; and "Bore Me (Yawn)," an upbeat old-school-Soul-type jam about a trifling man that features a brief but outstanding vocal performance by one of 'Tasia's brothers. On each of the album's 14 songs, Fantasia puts her heart and soul into her vocals, which goes a long way, especially when some of the subject matter is stale.

Fantasia hasn't quite progressed to the point where she's neck-and-neck with R&B's premiere singers like Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys, but that's only because she needs more experience and seasoning. Once she expands her songwriting ability and further learns the nuances that make a singer great, then by the time her next album comes out, instead of being near the middle of the pack of the best contemporary R&B singers, Fantasia will probably be near the top.

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