Fantasia - Side Effects of You (2013)

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Is she maddening? Misguided? Even slightly on the messy side? Sure. But what stands out the most about Fantasia Barrino is her way of channeling those raw edges and unguarded emotions into song. It's been these undeniable qualities that have sustained her since her historic 2004 American Idol victory and won her a standing ovation when she returned to the program's center stage and performed "Lose To Win." 

Is she maddening? Misguided? Even slightly on the messy side? Sure. But what stands out the most about Fantasia Barrino is her way of channeling those raw edges and unguarded emotions into song. It's been these undeniable qualities that have sustained her since her historic 2004 American Idol victory and won her a standing ovation when she returned to the program's center stage and performed "Lose To Win." 

Thanks to a tumultuous personal life (a new son, a married ex-boyfriend and all of the drama that comes with it) and a complicated relationship with the press (see last month's issue of Jet Magazine), it hasn't been all roses and rainbows for the 28-year-old Grammy-Award winner, but what she demonstrates with her fourth studio CD, Side Effects Of You, is that she's still raw, still resilient and more than adventurous enough to serve up the sultry tanginess that fans have come to expect, and adore, from the soft-spoken, yet sensational performer. 

The double-edged sword of the Fantasia Factor---wearing raw emotions on her sleeve---comes across with both resolve and resplendence: the glib and retro-fitted "Lighthouse" feels like a mission statement, announcing to her fans and her foes that Tasia Mae is here to stay, thankyouverymuch: "Bump The pictures and bump the fame, I'ma be here anyway...Try to shut me up, try to hold me down, never turn me off cuz' I'm a lighthouse." The opening track, "Supernatural Love," purringly describes an exciting new romance ("I'm a lady, I'm a woman, I'm a mother, I'm a daughter/but when I'm with you I have powers"), but the title track posits Fantasia as vulnerability personified, rueful and lilting in a ballad that compares the once-heady magnetism to a cumbersome drug that she aches to wean herself away from. 

For every introspective moment ("If I Was a Bird," "Lose To Win") and heart-stirring slow jam ("Ain't All Bad," "End Of Me"), Tasia packs a punch with some equally impactful uptempo grooves, like the saucy, "I'm Your Baby Tonight"-borrowing "Change Your Mind" ("Come home to me Baby, let me cook for you Darlin'/You never had it the way I'm gon' give it to you"), the Motown-era sock-hop-feeling number, "Get It Right" (enhanced with a vintage 'call-and-response' vibe) and the irresistible "Without Me," which is precluded with some good ol' girlfriend chatter with co-vocalists Kelly Rowland and a sorely-missed Missy Elliot and is 100% hip-hop-injected street swag: "What would you be without me/So what you're blowin' up just a little, been knowin' you a little, give you a finger in the middle cuz' (blurred expletive) you would never be without me."  

Side Effects of You is a lot like its creator and co-author (of the 13 regular tracks and 3 bonus ones, Ms. Barrino dropped lyrics on a total of eight): enthralling ("In Deep"), engaging ("To The Heavens") and at times, uneven in execution ("Haunted"); but her supporters will heartily remain Team Tasia and some detractors might grudgingly decide to sign up. Experiencing her still-evolving prowess as a person and performer is just like her most recent American Idol set: bold, brash and beautiful to behold. Enthusiastically Recommended.

By Melody Charles 

 

 

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