Fantasia — defining herself an album at a time

Fantasia – The Definition Of…

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Last time out she keyed her newfound emotional generosity to a Commodores sample. Now she gives every impression of having listened to Shura: the synth-copation in “Wait For You” is purest Europop. The punk guitar and record-scratching on opener “Crazy” present even wilder possibilities. The rest sticks to Fantasia’s roots, although an album like The Definition Of...suggests that her audience is just figuring out how deep those roots penetrate and how wide they stretch: the gospel pop of “I Made It” (hints of Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends”), the identikit R&B of “No Time For It.” Better is “When I Met You,” in which she thanks her ex for helping her know how and when love is real. Presumably the same lover who taught her the courage to take her next lover “round and round” on “Roller Coaster.”

Canny enough to understand the difference between self-realization and succumbing to influences, Fantasia is human enough to blur the two on occasion; her power stems from the voice that made her an American Idol winner. On “Ugly” it moves like wind whistling through tangled vines. Cragged, weathered, a silty base keeping its high end from dissipating, it humanizes the most pedestrian material. In a few days Frank Ocean has promised a new album. I understand Idol worship is not the stuff of which “narratives” are made, not when a hip industry cat can admit to a homosexual crush using Notepad; otherwise he sings about love and loss with as much conviction (and less skill) as anyone in R&B. Would that Fantasia inspire similar devotion.

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