Fantasia Is ‘Back’ And Bringing The Drama

The comparisons between Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson have been long-standing since both women were featured contestants in 2004 on Season 3 of American Idol. When Fantasia won, some naysayers said Jennifer was robbed and should have won. While I don't think a win on American Idol is any indication of talent, I do believe that Fantasia is a better vocalist, largely due to her vocal control and the dimension she conveys even when she sings the most mundane songs. Fantasia's new album Back To Me is testament to her range as a vocalist. She is gifted with the ability to use her voice as a magical instrument despite lackluster lyrics and formulaic pop beats.

While the CD has some production highlights that showcase Fantasia's incredible voice, many of the songs only stay afloat thanks to the steely will of Fantasia's vibrato. Like the family members that drag Fantasia down--as seen on her reality show, Fantasia For Real--so does the production on some of these songs. Yet, the album has its bright spots.

You immediately pick up on the theme of independence and triumph on this song collection. The song "I'm Doing Me" echoes this theme with the lyrics that declare, "Putting myself first place...I won't let your drama hold me down." Upbeat, defiant and spirited, this triumphant, independent woman anthem showcases Fantasia vocal fierceness that is also deeply soulful and delicately feminine.

The Billboard charter "Bittersweet," the first official release from the album, shows that Fantasia is a singer. She's not a hollerer who depends on volume to convey our stereotypes on what soulfulness is. Instead, she has vocal integrity, a natural ability to showcase texture and hit some incredible highs before dipping it low. Her voice is so rich with emotion and dimension that you are eagerly waiting to hear more even though though the lyrics aren't the most compelling. You feel the contradiction and tragedy in "Bittersweet." Her ending high note with the words "love can hurt" is simply lovely.

It is no surprise that her handlers chose to pull the song "Even Angels" as the album's lead single. Even though it was originally slated to be the first release. "Even Angels" is predictable dud that does nothing for Fantasia's vocals yet is the caliber of song that would be marked as "radio ready." Also less than impressive was the song "Man of the House" produced by RyKerz, which, admittedly, I skipped before finishing, along with "Who's Been Lovin You," produced by LOS Da Mystro.

The song "Collard Greens and Cornbread," however, grabbed my ear at first listen. But, of course it would. Produced by Pop and Oak, "Collard Greens and Cornbread" samples the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell classic "Your Precious Love" and is one of the songs on this disc that strays away from the played-out, hyper-active pop formula that dominates mainstream radio songs. Old school Motown with a smidgen of contemporary, this song is a commendable use of a sample.

We shared "The Thrill is Gone" featuring CeeLo Green with you already here on SoulBounce, and I reiterate that this is a duet that works. While CeeLo is restrained a bit--it is a Fantasia song after all--his presence is compatible with the song. Fantasia's wail is beautifully accented by this arrangement.

The Brenda Russell-penned "I'm Here" from the Oprah Winfrey-produced stage play The Color Purple showcases Fantasia's vocal control and gives those of us who have yet to see her play Celie on stage a sneak preview. It's a nice taste, as expected. You'd have to be totally sheltered if you haven't heard the rave reviews of Fantasia in this role. Let's not forget that Fantasia's triumph on American Idol was due in part to her performance of the show tune "Summertime." Her vocal ability on this track is showcased through her powerful ability to emote through song. "I'm Here" is a powerful song, which I'm sure translates even better on stage.

Back To Me is a collection that fans should definitely check out. For it maintains, ultimately, that Fantasia, at times, has the power to overshadow songs that are consistently beneath the majesty that is her voice.

Fantasia Back To Me [Amazon][iTunes]

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15 Responses

  1. Great review. I am a big fan this project, and you spoke to several of the reason's why!!!

  2. @ JIVONJ Thanks for reading!

  3. She's not a hollerer who depends on volume to convey our stereotypes on what soulfulness is.

  4. Comparisons?????? what comparisons? J-hud is a married woman, Tasia sleeps with married men, J-hub is sexy as hell, Tasia looks like Leonardo the ninja turtle, J-hub is a class A star, Tasia is more famous for her videos and homewrecking, Comparisons???? Tasia cant hold J-hubs bra strap, vocally or as a woman.

  5. I've kinda lumped them both in the category of "hollerers" but you are right, Bittersweet proves Tasia can do a bit more. I have the CD but I haven't listened to it since I first got it. this post inspired me to revisit. adding it to my iPod right now.

  6. I see Fantasia as a screamer and in no way in hell does she have more control than Jenniifer. I think they both can turn the theatrics on & off when it's time but overall Jhud is the better vocalist.

  7. @ stoney, if there is one thing I can count on from you, it is your eternal dissing of Fantasia. Your bias colors any comment about the woman. So, I can't really respond. Who hurt you, bruh?
    @ Reecie, I think of Fantasia as a wailer, if anything. J Hud yells, flat out. She bellows and yells most times. I actually enjoy her more as an actress than singer, she is great to watch.
    @baybruh, I respectfully disagree. J Hud has limited control, though she has grown enormously since AI. She has a powerful voice, yes, but I believe she was supported in our culture that tends to encourage bellowing which isn't appropriate on all songs. Fantasia has vocal flexibility that I don't hear when J Hud sings. Fantasia's vocals are underused on the songs that are written for her.

  8. @Jemstar, I didn't hear that song from Sex and the City, gonna check it out. I agree, J Hud is a talent. I loved her in the Bees movie with Alicia Keyes. Thanks for the comment:-)

  9. Never bought Fanny's albums, but agree that she can sing (though the "screaming" can be a bit much) and like some songs from the latest.
    Checked out J-Hud's album and IMO, it was hit and miss, if not all over the place. She too can sing, but sometimes oversings. She is more known because of the Oscar, singing for the Obamas and events, and the sad circumstances with her family.
    Each has room for improvement.

  10. Great review, Moon. I admit that I've heard only samples of the songs but you mentioned much of what I was thinking. I have her other 2 albums and though she is a great singer, she doesn't consistently have material that matches her talent. I feel that same way about Monica and J Hud. I was originally rooting for J Hud on American Idol but she didn't have the vocal control that some of the other singers, such as Fantasia and Latoya London, had. Even Randy said it. But I think that J hud has greatly improved since then. Collard Greens and Cornbread is the best use of a sample that I've heard in a while. Teach Me and Move On Me also sound like winners.

  11. Fantasia's voice goes through me when she sings. When she starts a song, no matter what, I stop to listen to what she has to say -- especially if she's doing a set on tv or something. She is the torch bearer to Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and those who knew how to get under our skin with a song. Fantasia can SING. Patty said it. Aretha said it. And I agree with them.

  12. I watched Fantasia win AI, and I believe she was truly deserving. I also know that it has been a very rocky road for her and I agree that the songs that she sings sometimes cheapen her talent.... a great example of this is "Baby Mommas" (I cringe to think about it even now). Hopefully, she will gain enough of a following that her management will finally hook her up with better songwriters and producers for her next project. Meanwhile, I'm going to definitely check this out... glad to see I don't have to give up on my girl!
    BTW, Congrats on your BWA10 win....!

  13. @ farahfarita, thanks for the congrats! We were thrilled to receive the win:-)
    @ grace, her voice goes through me, too! I remember listening to her sing in 2004 on AI as I was walking upstairs in my house and just sitting on the step to finish listening so I wouldn't miss the song she was singing.
    @Muse, thanks! You bring up Latoya London who I think is so under-recognized its criminal. I hope she breaks out with something we will be able to find, I think a lot of us were expecting big things from her.

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    this is the shade i've seen thrown at Fantasia's album. Although it;s not the sound you may like it's an overall good album. That's why it's #2 on the billboards R&B. I wasn't even checking for Tasia but the album is so damn good. I listen to it everyday since it came out.

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    oh and she;s actually not screaming. That why i like it so much. i just can't deal with the screaming