In My Write Mind
11.20.2004

A Reason to BELIEVE!



It's Saturday, I'm at work, supposed to working on a newsletter that was due a week ago, I have various projects that are due by Wednesday and I still have to go see my mama, sooooo with that in mind, how's about we review Fantasia's debut CD? LOL

Flashback with me. For those of you who were addicted like I was, let's recall the first four months of the year, when American Idol ruled the airwaves and week after week, we were treated to raw and passionate performances from a 19-year old from North Carolina whose town's claim to fame was being the furniture capitol of the world.

Think about it--she wasn't the best singer. LaToya London was. She wasn't the best looking. Again, LaToya. She wasn't the most polished when it came to stage presence. Helllooo, LaToya.

But week after week, the name, performance and voice you always remembered was that of Fantasia Barrino. She never fed into the media's fueling of a "Three Divas" fire, which supposedly pitted Barrino, London and fellow AIer Jennifer Hudson against one another. In fact, she was always the first one crying when ANYONE got voted off the show, including the tone deaf Hawaiian chicks and chewed up Big Red (who lasted on the show much longer than the cinnamon taste from the actual gum, by the way...LOL). You can't fake that. Each week, it seemed she was genuinely happy to be there.

Alas, the energetic gospel singer with the 3-year old daughter named Zion had what all the other contestants wished they'd had--belief. Sure, they thought they could, or even should, be the next American Idol. But nobody, not even judge Simon Cowell or the pathetic, paunchy putrid-piped poster boy William Hung, believed in themselves as much as 'Tasia.

Every week another challenge, every week another challenge met.

The constant energy during her 2-minute sets, her voice as raw as a young Mary J., made you feel what she was singing. And each week, she found a way to include her trademark "yeah-yeahs". No song was too much. Her sparkling rendition of one of my father's favorite songs, Summertime, from the play Porgy & Bess, led the nation to give her a standing ovation. And then, the next week, after another solid performance, she received the second least amount of votes. Even with that ebb & flow, that up and down, Barrino's belief never wavered. It helped her maintain a mental balance that helped her outlast the 16-year old from Georgia to take the coveted AI crown, becoming the second African American in a row to win.

Her final song, I Believe, seemed more than just a victory lap. Even then, especially then, you BELIEVED along with her that she belonged in the winner's circle. She took your emotions on a ride with each crescendo, made you strive a little bit harder to make your dreams a reality (if not a reality show), and in the words of the late, great Tupac Shakur, she "had you feeling like black was the thing to be."

With the release of her debut CD, Free Yourself, Fantasia does what Year 2 winner Ruben Studdard couldn't, which is put together a solid catalog of songs. Sure, Ruben was Sorry for 2004 for ummm, most of 2004. You kept waiting...and waiting for Rube to put out another single. ANYTHING but that song again. Lawd. And the truth is, he couldn't. There weren't any more singles. Let's put it this way--if Sorry 2004 was like the velvet teddy bear's face and smile, the rest of the CD was like pure stuffing--insignificant filler.

You won't say that after listening to Free Yourself. Filled with 13 tracks, Fantasia chose songs that fit her voice, while still taking the chances that made her the buzz of the most watched reality show of the year.

The title track finds Barrino telling a lover not to worry about her, she's gonna be OK. Her current single, Truth Is, is getting steady radio rotation and is a classic R&B song. Blend the simple structure with her raspy-sultry-country chords and you get the truth. The song Selfish, a collaboration with Missy Elliott, who said she would've signed Barrino herself if she hadn't won on the show, is a winner, as it touches on the Hindi-style beat that Jay-Z used to great success in 2003, and proves that taking chances is what separates her from her fellow AI champs. The track Baby Mama provides an infectous chorus and a shout out to the multitudes of women who are saddled with that title, giving them something to embrace. As Fantasia says in the first verse, "it's about time we have a song of our own."

The CD sags a bit in the middle when Barrino does a cover of the classic You Were Always On My Mind, proving that not every song will be a hit. Her covers of Summertime and the tailor-made I Believe also appear on the disc, and just as when we first heard them, they prove to be timeless and perfect for her.

Overall, the CD is excellent. The next single should be Selfish, with Good Lovin waiting in the wings. It's chock full of real R&B, a CD you can play from start to finish...and then start again.

I actually enjoyed it. And I recommend it. And guarantee that, after a listen or two, you, like me and 'Tasia, will believe!

scribbled by Will at 11/20/2004 02:36:00 PM
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Mind Droppings

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Joan Didion)



The Write One


Will. Lefty. Since Summer 1971.
Over the next six months, I'll be saying some hellos, some goodbyes. Living, laughing, growing. Don't.miss.a.word.
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