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Thread: Reviews Of Fantasia's Debut CD

  1. #1
    For Your Entertainment lobeck's Avatar
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    Reviews Of Fantasia's Debut CD

    From the USA TODAY website. This review is part of a larger article reviewing several new albums. The entire article can be found here.

    Fantasia, Free Yourself (* * * out of four) That Fantasia is able to transcend generic tunes, slick production and he-done-me-wrong clichés is testament to the strength of the chops and charm that won over American Idol's third-season audience. Free Yourself, while hardly the musical emancipation befitting the young singer's quirky talents, is by far the freshest and funkiest Idol record to date. That said, comparisons to Mary J. Blige are premature, as are Free's diva airs. Fantasia succumbs to histrionics on occasion but seems to grasp the wisdom of nuance and generally avoids the trampoline that turned Mariah Carey into a stunt vocalist. Her husky voice, well-suited to old-school soul and contemporary R&B, proves compelling in the steamy Got Me Waiting, duets with Jazze Pha and Missy Elliott and a somewhat sanitized version of her Idol showstopper, Summertime.
    Last edited by lobeck; 11-30-2004 at 04:25 PM.

  2. #2
    For Your Entertainment lobeck's Avatar
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    The editorial review from Amazon.com. The review can also be found here.

    Few would accuse Fantasia of a reluctance to abide by the wisdom that what you've got, you should flaunt, and the vocal gusto she slathers over her full-length debut gets partial credit for earning--and keeping--your attention. To a greater extent, though, the high-wattage help heaped over the Idol 3 champ and Patti LaBelle-sound-alike makes the disc dazzle. In addition to pitch-ins from Missy Elliott, who produced and co-wrote three tracks and busts out a two-snaps-up rhyme on "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)," Jazze Pha duets on the ultra-mod "Don't Act Right" and Jermaine Dupri wrote and produced the smolderer "Got Me Waiting." Surprisingly, though, it's not those tracks or even the Idol-propelled cover of the Gershwins' "Summertime" that will stick with listeners most. Instead, first single "Truth Is," a sweet, old-school R&B lament directed toward a lost love, and "Baby Mama," a spirited shout-out to hard-working single mothers, snare standout status with their from-the-gut authenticity. Keeping it real is what won Fantasia the hearts of millions on TV, and despite Free Yourself's likable slickness, it convinces that--hot commodity or no--she's not about to forget it. -Tammy La Gorce

  3. #3
    Fort Freak! funnygirl422's Avatar
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    Jun 2003
    Quite frankly, I don't care what the "critics" think. I thought it's an awesome debut album! I gave it 3.5 stars (outta 4). With her debut album, Fantasia has proven that America chose a winner last year. She's sure to be around for a long time!

  4. #4

    Ruben Studdard; Fantasia
    Studdard fading but Fantasia frisky

    Jim Abbott | Sentinel Pop Music Critic
    Posted December 10, 2004

    ** Ruben Studdard, I Need An Angel (J); *** Fantasia Barrino, Free Yourself (J): As one might expect, these two albums from American Idol winners provide plenty of musical notes for the money.

    That makes sense for smart shoppers in these economical times, especially consumers who like their pop stars hardened by the taunts of Simon Cowell and bolstered by national TV exposure.

    Cost of being on a reality show: Temporary loss of self-esteem. Launching a career in prime time: Priceless.

    For a winner, Studdard has emerged as an underdog to rival Clay Aiken, whose smarmy lounge-act persona (and creepy winking) has inspired an intensely loyal cult following.

    Unfortunately, Studdard's debut album and his new gospel turn on I Need An Angel don't do anything to remedy his fading buzz. These 12 songs are collectively unremarkable, technically proficient vocals against arrangements that fade harmlessly into the background.

    Maybe you have to watch Studdard, sweating profusely and smiling with those big dimples, to appreciate what he has to offer. It still hasn't surfaced in the studio.

    Fantasia, on the other hand, fulfills all the expectations of an American Idol on Free Yourself. The vocals are big, big, big, the centerpiece of stylish R&B grooves written by stars such as Missy Elliott, Jermaine Dupri and Rodney Jerkins.

    She never met a vocal trill that she didn't like on George Gershwin's "Summertime," but her collaboration with Elliott on "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)" is a sexy tease that suggests Fantasia might have potential to be bigger than Clay and Ruben rolled together.

    Reviewing key: ***** excellent; **** good; *** average; ** poor; * awful.

  5. #5
    cd reviews
    'American Idol' sensation merits better treatment

    Fantasia Barrino is a talented singer saddled with formulaic production on "Free Yourself." -- Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

    December 12, 2004


    "Free Yourself," J Records. Reviewed by Howard Cohen, The Miami Herald

    By now, one shouldn't expect art to come from the "American Idol" franchise.

    Still, with Fantasia Barrino, this is particularly disappointing. She deserves better than the cookie-cutter R&B that producer Clive Davis has saddled her with.

    Her expressive performance of the Gershwin standard "Summertime" was arguably the most stunning moment in three seasons of "Idol." She can sing and convey a sophisticated lyric with intelligence. Why not let this Idol live up to that handle by standing out from the pack?

    On her debut album, however, "Summertime" is reworked into just another overproduced mess, hardly distinguished from the elementary songwriting of overemoted contemporary R&B like the tuneless "Ain't Gon' Beg You." Fantasia winds up having to screech like a junior Patti LaBelle about the same trite subjects found on everyone else's records. Yawn.

    Barrino could live up to her early promise, but she needs to flee the "American Idol" assembly-line formula, much in the way Clay Aiken appears to be doing lately. Sad thing is, with the speed with which "Idol" cranks them out, Fantasia may be forgotten when she finally makes her move.

  6. #6

    Fantasia Free Yourself
    - If you didn't know who Fantasia was prior to listening to this album, you would never be able to guess that she was the American Idol - and that is a good thing.

    On her first single "Truth Is," Fantasia has left the sugary pop of American Idol behind, and is showing the world what her die hard fans have known from the beginning, this girl can really sing.

    Hit worthy songs from this album include the somber "Got Me Waiting," and "Baby Mama," a tribute to young, single moms like herself. Another standout is a cover of Willie Nelson's " You Were Always on My Mind," a song which Fantasia manages to make her own without taking away from original sentiment of the song.

    The only visible remnants of her AI career are forgivable. Her single "I Believe" is featured on the album, as well as "Summertime," which to be honest with you still give me chills.

    What is most exceptional about this album is that Fantasia is able to showcase her amazing voice without over doing it. This is an achievement considering that in todays music world, singers often feel they need to shout their songs at you in order to prove that they can sing. Fantasia knows the power of her own voice, and while it stands out, it doesn't overshadow the music.

    Only time will tell what happens to this American Idol alum, but my guess is that as long as Fantasia doesn't stray from her current formula she will do just fine.

    Reviewer: Jackie Backman new pop

    Reviewer's Rating: 8.5
    Reader's Rating: 9.78
    Reader's Votes: 71

  7. #7
    CD reviews
    December 5, 2004 LIS1205

    Fantasia, "Free Yourself" (J)

    The "American Idol" champ easily outclasses the competition and emerges with the finest debut of all the former "Idol" contestants. "Free Yourself" is far from perfect, but it's a fine start and tentatively positions Fantasia as the heir to Patti LaBelle's atomic-powered diva crown.

    Unfortunately, the album's opener is among its weakest tracks. "Ain't Gon' Beg You" is barely a tune, and all the singer's considerable exertion can't make it work. It sounds as if the producers urged her to use as many notes as possible. The technique-over-substance display is enough to make you long for the relative subtlety of Mariah Carey. The vocal powerhouse from North Carolina is capable of better and, luckily, goes on to prove it.

    She doesn't have the maturity to put a distinctive stamp on chestnuts "Summertime" and "Always on My Mind," but she doesn't embarrass herself, either. It's on the more contemporary productions that she comes through with her personality and style.

    The hook-tastic thump of the Missy Elliott-penned-and-produced "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)," along with vigorous efforts by producers Rodney Jerkins ("It's All Good") and Jazze Pha ("Don't Act Right") come out on top. Catchy, chart-ready material like this -- so often sung by vocal lightweights with pretty faces -- benefits from Fantasia's strong voice. The smooth, soulful sway of "Truth Is," which samples the Isley Brothers, and "Got Me Waiting," a slow-burning Jermaine Dupri production, proves she's capable of skillful restraint, too.

    "Free Yourself" shows oodles of promise. 5311

  8. #8

    New Music Reviews
    Thursday, December 2, 2004

    Winston-Salem Journal

    Fantasia, Free Yourself

    Label: J Records

    If you like: Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige

    Song to download: “Free Yourself”

    Fantasia Barrino, a native of High Point, was the big winner on last year's American Idol, the reality show in which American television viewers get to play armchair talent scout without getting paid for the pleasure.

    Fantasia - one name, please - could sing, and she boasted a natural charm that did not go unnoticed by hitmaker Clive Davis.

    Davis immediately signed her to J Records, and Fantasia gained big-league status.

    Davis evidently needs a fresh face and voice to show him the money. Hence, Free Yourself , Fantasia's debut, a slick-slick-slickity-slick disc that is so formula driven, so pimped and polished for maximum profit, that it is rendered virtually anonymous.

    Fantasia can belt - whoa, listen to her go on “Free Herself,” in which impressively kinetic vocal riffing is all but overwhelmed by backing vocals. The message - it's not the singer, but the song, the groove, the package.

    The songs and arrangements are characterless, the grooves are tired. Missy Elliott guest stars and produces three tracks, adding the needed stamp of hip-hop approval.

    Fantasia sings her heart out, God bless her, but her natural soul is consumed by the package. “Summertime,” her breakout track from American Idol, is included, perhaps to remind fans that she is capable of much, much more than this high-gloss money tree.

    - Ed Bumgardner, relish staff writer

  9. #9
    Tasia is a pleasure to see/hear perform. I like to hear music brought to life and thats what Fantasia does everytime!

  10. #10
    Fantasia should take cues from debut title
    Neva Chonin, Chronicle Critic at Large

    Thursday, November 25, 2004

    Free Yourself: Fantasia Barrino.

    J Records,

    Evolution is inevitable. So it goes that "American Idol," the Fox TV gold mine responsible for turning pop stardom into a commodity rated by Nielsen rather than Billboard, finds itself on the ratings slide. With the great Ruben Studdard/Clay Aiken showdown over, viewership for 2004's "American Idol" season dropped 14 percent.
    Low ratings aside, the contest produced a winner in Fantasia Barrino, a 20-year-old single mother from North Carolina. J Records honcho Clive Davis compared her to "a young Mary J. Blige," and the hype machine cranked into sixth gear. A recording contract and a best-selling single, "I Believe," followed. Now we have "Free Yourself," her debut album. A diva is born, and the show goes on.

    First, the good news about the newest manufactured American Idol: Besides having a fabulous name, Fantasia can sing -- not just clamber around the scales and warble hyperbolically, but sing with heart and depth. Her voice smokes when she lets it; her phrasing conveys thought and emotion. No, she's not Mary J. Blige, not even close. But she is the first American Idol who counts as a discovery.

    Too bad her first CD doesn't do her justice. As usual, a team of Idol enablers is on board, this time headed by Missy Elliott, Jermaine Dupri and the Underdogs. Over the course of 13 tracks, Fantasia slogs through the usual valley of lousy lovers and hard knocks to emerge on the pinnacle of self- empowerment on the side. Sound familiar? Yeah.

    Along the way, she hits all the right notes and yowls beautifully. Still, for all Fantasia's talent and her team of heavy producers, there's no escaping the generic neo-soul of tracks like "Truth Is" and the Dupri-produced "Got Me Waiting": Layered vocals pour like waterfalls, Fantasia's skills are extolled in sundry shout-outs, and faux-vinyl scratchiness lends touches of nostalgic verite. Even the Elliott-produced title track is clinically smooth and forgettable.

    There are the inevitable he-done-her-wrong nods to sisterhood, as when Elliott and Fantasia team up to eviscerate a bad boyfriend on "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself) and Jazze Pha plays the fall guy with a whooping rap on "Don't Act Right."

    A few songs stand out. Fantasia reprises the Gershwin standard "Summertime," which put her over the top during the finales and now offers the album's best showcase for her husky, elastic vocals. More surprisingly, her cover of the Willie Nelson hit, "You Were Always on My Mind," invests the original with a soulful tint that adds spice to its bathetic sentimentality. With "Baby Mama," she effectively delivers a funky anthem to single motherhood.

    Fantasia has the chops to make it sans hype. But does she have the will? To survive her own fleeting fame, she'll have to break out of "American Idol's" assembly-line mold, and she'll have to do it while the putty's still warm. Time's a-wasting, and evolution waits for no one.

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