I’ll be the first to admit that when Fantasia took the “American Idol” crown in Season 3 way back in the day, I was not particularly impressed. Actually, I may have even yawned at the announcement of her victory. But when I got a chance to see her live, first during Jazz in the Gardens in Miami a year ago where she kicked off her shoes in Patti LaBelle fashion, then more recently here in the District when she teamed up with another surging R&B artist for “Fantasia & Anthony Hamilton: Live in Concert,” I realized that this sister has the goods – beauty, charisma and a voice from God.
By that time, I had emerged a changed man – and a fan for life.
Since her debut, Fantasia Barrino has continued to build a solid career with a string of R&B hits, including a Grammy in 2010 for “Bittersweet.”
However, as many critics say and with which I agree, it’s her hard work that she put in while starring in two Broadway musicals, “The Color Purple” and “After Midnight,” that have pushed the artist to amazing new heights – stretching her vocal skills and ramping up her stamina while broadening her repertoire into genres that include jazz, gospel, pop and the blues.
It all comes together on her fifth studio album, “The Definition Of …,” which after its release in July 2016 peaked on the US Billboard 200 at number six. For the record, this CD sits at the top of my daily musical rotation – from rides in the car, to the patio and in my private sanctuary.
In an interview with “Essence” magazine, she discussed her goals for her newest release.
“I wanted music that would touch people’s hearts; that would bless people and move people because, you know, music makes the world go round,” she said.
She adds, the title represents how she envisions herself as a woman.
“I’m the definition of strength, the definition of love, the definition of a fighter, the list goes on,” she said.
The song that will surely knock your socks off is one penned by R. Kelly with plenty of horns, strings and percussion that gives the feel of a torch song from generations ago, “Sleeping with the One I Love.”
You can almost imagine Fantasia singing in a smoke-filled, intimate, jazz club where the only thing you can clearly see are the blue lights. In this sure-to-be-classic, she pushes her voice like the God-given instrument that it is – and with phenomenal results.
She takes us back to church where she, like so many others before her, first learned how to sing, with an upbeat gospel number written by and featuring Tye Tribbett, “I Made It.” It could be her anthem, given some of the setbacks and disappointments she’s faced in her life and career. And while I can’t say that Tribbett is one of my favorites, their decision to team up was clearly a good one.
Other songs on the CD that you will find appealing include: “So Blue” and “No Time for It,” a kind of ride-or-die pop tune which was released as the lead single last January,
Then, just when you thought you’ve heard it all, there’s “Lonely Legend” – a song that oozes with the raspy, sultry style of the legendary Tina Turner.
It’s a bluesy number that illustrates just how talented Fantasia really is – and with no disrespect intended – she sounds as much like Tina as any artist I’ve ever heard.
At the same time, Fantasia doesn’t just imitate or mimic Turner. Instead she brings a new interpretation that reveals the profound impact that the living legend has had on Fantasia’s musical acumen.
Yes indeed, Fantasia and her talented team of producers have hit a home run.