October 28, 2010

Back to Me - Fantasia 2010 (R&B album)

Let us look past the recent suicide attempt, (the American Idol songstress) the mediocre past album sales, that vocal that can sharply divide a room of people into admirers and enemies. Back to Me, the R&B singer's third record, finds Fantasia reflecting on her inner demons and the demons of those she chooses to surround herself with. It really is back to Fantasia, even if the quasi-sentiment conflicts with recent happenings. Often times suffering from dated, over-productions in the studio (and Back to Me sure has its share of moments), Fantasia's gems in her back catalog are primarily the frivolous, booty-shaking numbers ("Not the Way I Do," "Hood Boy," "Selfish," "Baby Makin' Hips"). What is a shame is that she's never been able to translate what kind of artist she intrinsically is; her ballads (where her voice, that amazingly untrained and unhinged Patti LaBelle meets Cookie Monster voice) seems insincere and tamed on tape. Back to Me seems to have slightly improved on this. "The Worst Part is Over" is full of emotion, "The Thrill is Gone," featuring her male counterpart Cee-Lo of Gnarls Barkley fame, is one of her best and believable ballads to date. "Collard Greens & Cornbread," despite its vapid title and slightly messy production, is delightfully swaying and nice. "Even Angels," the first promotional song released, is the singer's most successful and accessible single to date, even if it only dented the charts. The stand-out track here, though, is "I'm Here," taken from the musical in which she (sometimes) starred in The Color Purple. With only a few meandering strings, plucking guitars, and tinkling piano, Fantasia's voice is the driving force. Back to Me is a small step in the right direction for the singer, whose place on the urban charts, honestly, will probably not ever reach the highest of places. Fantasia is a soul singer to the core, whose voice can convey much more than is offered in a cookie-cutter, generic R&B feel-good number.

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