Fantasia: The Definition Is…

Posted August 18, 2016 by in r&b



2/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: , ,
Label: ,
Genre: Soul, R&B, gospel
Producer: Ron Fair, R. Kelly, Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon, Brian Kennedy, GRADES
Label: RCA, 19
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 48:37
Release Date: 29 July 2016
Spin This: "Ugly," "Roller Coasters"


"Ugly" plays with country vibes and the Aloe Blacc-featured "Roller Coasters" has her experimenting with soul-rock. These new trends on her are the most appetizing of the album


The repetitive choruses, forgettable lyrics and lackadaisical nostalgic soul burdens down the set

On new LP, Idol’s biggest soul songstress still struggles to find big diva anthems and unforgettable ballads

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

On new LP, Idol’s biggest soul songstress still struggles to find big diva anthems and unforgettable ballads

fantasia-01American Idol’s most recognized soul singer has had a rough time trying to rise up as a top-tier powerhouse giant. She deserves the space that Gladys, Tina and Patti has, and possibly has earned it, if you ask one or two r&B critics, but her problem – like Ruben Studdard – has always been landing on the right material to catapult her into that realm of realness. Except for her glowing Missy Elliott-helmed Free Yourself, the content usually given to her has been snuff drowning in a sea of mediocrity. Outside of her own real life drama, the only times she seems to be going viral is when she’s on some tribute show owning a classic ballad or uptempo funk jam.

The Definition Is…, Fantasia’s latest solo album since 2013’s Side Effects of You, finds her anchored down to productions arranged by Ron Fair (Keyshia Cole, Mary J. Blige). It tries to net the new-gen soul singer a few hit gems to her catalog. By avoiding the now-plastic, redundant urban contemporary formula along with the Bey-heavy, Drake-like alt-r&B on radio, she curtails towards a style that feels nostalgic, gripping the tassels of old school R&B. The problem is the tunes aren’t exactly strong, solid presentations. For example, the R. Kelly-produced “Sleeping With the One I Love” is a rip-off of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s World” in the worst way.

The disc finds Fantasia often playing with songs with very little lyrical definition or character, where her churchy ad-libs take center stage and controls the agenda. It happens on “Stay Up,” a musically cluttered bore found drowning in a similar chord pattern heard on the opening lines of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” She sings the Bob Marley-inspired chorus (“Stay up, stay up, stay up/No matter what’s going down, down, down, down”) but it never really takes flight like “Get Up, Stand Up.” Same happens on the gospel closer, “I Made It.” With Tye Tribbett in the background yelling like a Kirk Franklin apprentice and a harp-and-horn arrangement in tow, the song is mostly repetitive chorus, a stripped-down “I Wanna Be Where You Are” (a la The Jackson 5). It’s fitting for an urban church’s praise team, but hardly surpasses high-caliber memorable soul.

Her only real saving grace on The Definition Is… is “Ugly.” It’s trimmed with a faux-country pop border, something almost totally unique to her except that it rings with the gravitas of her Idol crowning song “I Believe.” It could easily be billed adult contemporary Play-Doh, but Fantasia rescues the song from mediocrity with her believable belting. “Roller Coasters” is probably just as important to the set. Inside Aloe Blaac give off a supporting co-lead using his Al Green-Anthony Hamilton vocal grit and is surrounded by wailing guitar solos on the second half. It’s as if Fantasia is now taking a plunge in rock, where she probably deserves to be, other than doing an actual hardcore gospel album, like Aretha and Al Green – two powerful soul titans – have done in the middle of their careers.



About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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