Fantasia: Back to Me

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

fantasia00Idol’s third studio LP may be her best balanced project to date, but the gloomy forecast surrounding her personal life and not having enough standouts easily sifts the sting from the album’s bite

Fantasia Barrino may still be best known for taking home the crown in Season 3 of American Idol, but her unfortunate sob stories and the most recent tabloid controversy surrounding an affair with a married man, a rumored sex tape and a suicide attempt is starting to overtake the imperial wonders of her raw, soulful talents. Even in the midst of her problematic dichotomus and with the fulness of her present apparatus now being examined, the album release of Back to Me, her third studio project to date, couldn’t have come at a better time. She definitely stands in need of a breakthrough moment; a shining that would give her enough hope to pull her through her inner depressions and surrounding enigmas. Back to Me could be that leveling plane for that escape. It will certainly give her something fresh to sing about and get her acquainted once again with her strong fan base.

But Fantasia falls on a project bearing very little mobility. Much of the songs find her singing lyrics that doesn’t make sense in her present world. She’s singing about women’s lib and putting herself first before no-good men on the Chuck Harmony-produced “I’m Doin’ Me” (“But now I woke up/Opened both of my eyes up/Realize that I don’t need any other/Man, if you can’t love me equally/Then you don’t need to be with me”). After much paradoxical anxiety, she unveils her final decision to depart from a painful relationship on the first single “Bittersweet” (“Deep inside my heart/I made the right decision/But it’s kinda hard/When your mind is thinking, ohhh/Did I make a big mistake”). “Man of the House” is a back-and-forth tussle on who actually runs things at the crib. She compares her love skills using an innocent arrogance to a former boyfriend on a track loaded with similarities of Mary J. Blige’s “I Am” (“Who’s Been Lovin’ You”). All of this would be perfect batter for Fantasia, if she wasn’t so attached to the drama in her own life. The lyrics doesn’t carry the kind of weight it should have; knowing all the details.

Set aside the present state while evaluating the music and you can still hear an artist playing with some decent material. “I’m Doin’ Me,” with its Mary J. Blige-Brandy undertones and hard urban beats, certainly is single worthy and actually is the strongest of all of the song submissions. “Falling In Love Tonight” feels like a Ne-Yo synth track and could, with the right kind of support, could make a dent on the pop charts. “The Thrill Is Gone” is another attention-winner. With its strong interpolation of Isaac Hayes’s arrangement of “The Look of Love” and with Cee-Lo Green’s slick rap, it serves as the perfect contrast against her multi-dimensional impassioned pipes. She draws nigh to her “Summertime” moment on Idol with the inclusion of the gospel-soaked ballad “I’m Here” – taken from The Color Purple musical soundtrack.

The serious aggravation throughout the disc is how Pop and Oak’s corrupted strafe to lift a sample from Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s “Your Precious Love” and place it on a song comparing good love with soul food (“Collard Greens & Cornbread”). Others like “Move On Me” just get lost in the shuffle of the present track listing.

2004’s Free Yourself and her follow-up eponymous disc (bearing the imperial R&B hit “When I See You”) certainly gave her the key advantage to pull in pre-order sales. Fans are anxious to hear more of her; especially now with all the mayhem surrounding their idol. Sometimes sorrowful stories help drive momentum for critical record sales; just ask Whitney Houston. But the ones to marinate in a pool of sorrow will probably be new listeners; especially knowing that an album that could have been is what should have been. The original layout for the album was supposed to feature productions from Raphael Saadiq and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Maybe she scraped those original plans because she didn’t want to fall near quick comparisons with Ledisi’s last effort, but the final version of Back To Me contains very little swag to make the album roar with a much-needed confidence.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 25 May 2010
  • Label: J
  • Producers: Chuck Harmony, Rykeyz, Los Da Mystro, Claude Kelly, Rico Love, Jim Jonsin, Oak, Stereotypes, Andrew “Pop” Wansel
  • Track Favs: I’m Doin’ Me, Bittersweet, The Thrill Is Gone

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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