Fantasia - The Definition Of… (2016)

Fantasia
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Fantasia - The Definition Of…

Soulful, fiesty, rough-around-the-edges and more brash than a hot pink dress at an all-white dinner party. No one was prepared for a 20-year-old High Point, NC native to make it through the rounds of the nation's top talent competition known as American Idol, much less win the top prize. But despite the odds, Fantasia Barrino seized her moment in the spotlight, fumbling through life as all young people do but still regaling her Idol and after fans with hit after hit. For those touched by the vulnerability and raw power in Fantasia's vocals, she became a folk hero of sorts: imperfect, yet empowering, flawed yet fearless. This is where we find the now 32-year-old woman, five albums deep with the release of her latest project, The Definition Of..., a compilation that's as uneven, yet intriguing, as the woman who created it.

Fantasia - The Definition Of…

Soulful, fiesty, rough-around-the-edges and more brash than a hot pink dress at an all-white dinner party. No one was prepared for a 20-year-old High Point, NC native to make it through the rounds of the nation's top talent competition known as American Idol, much less win the top prize. But despite the odds, Fantasia Barrino seized her moment in the spotlight, fumbling through life as all young people do but still regaling her Idol and after fans with hit after hit. For those touched by the vulnerability and raw power in Fantasia's vocals, she became a folk hero of sorts: imperfect, yet empowering, flawed yet fearless. This is where we find the now 32-year-old woman, five albums deep with the release of her latest project, The Definition Of..., a compilation that's as uneven, yet intriguing, as the woman who created it.

A tad shorter than 2013's Side Effects of You, but far more ambitious in scope, the new album is anchored by the contributions of Ron Fair (Keyshia Cole, Mary J. Blige) as executive producer and main lyricist, with several other collaborators mixing it up in-between. The results reflect the sum of the parts, sometimes odd and other times brilliant to behold. Fantasia's voice, winsome and wonderful throughout, is the common denominator that holds it all together: her growth as a woman and as a performer radiate through tracks like "So Blue," a tangy declaration of unintended independence due to cheating on her unfaithful boo, the sunny soul and soaring optimism of  "When I Met You" and the fraught and atmospheric R. Kelly groove, "Sleeping with the One I Love," that aches from being pulled back-and-forth between the man who curls her toes versus the one who keeps her safe. If anyone can embody the struggle of forbidden love, it's definitely our Fantasia. 

Even on the more disjointed numbers, our Idol can serve up compelling results: the songs that resonate as personal experiences or mission statements, such as the country-esque "Ugly" and the Tina Turner-type pop confection, "Lonely Legend," make mesmerizing use of her ripe soprano without squelching the fire brimming within. There's also the 'take-em'-to-church-Fanny' fervor within the heartfelt testimonial, "I Made It," featuring Tye Tribbet. But "Crazy," "Stay Up" (with Stacy Barthe) and "Roller Coasters" (with Aloe Blacc) don't make full use of the artistry presented and feel more like intriguing concepts rather than fully-executed grooves. 

It's been 12 years since Fantasia walked into our living rooms, found her way into screen and stage successes and earned a legion of loyal fans, many of them growing and changing as often---and awkwardly---as she has. But as the cover artwork demonstrates, the wife, mother and soul siren is beautiful and unique in her own unconventional fashion. And, let's face it, those who adore her artistry, like Yours Truly, will find something to adore within Definition...rock it and champion how far that 20-year-old single mother has come. The journey hasn't been even, but that fact doesn't make this latest effort from our 'Tasia less essential to listen to. Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
Album of the Month - Juewett Bostick - Shades of Blu
Choice Cut - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Song of the Month - Bryan Andrew Wilson - "Only You'

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