The Definition Of… (released July 29, 2016)
When your personal narrative is as powerful as Fantasia’s – and your vocals are as enthralling as that journey – empowerment is destined to be your claim to fame.
R&B fans know Fantasia’s story, from the highs of American Idol, Broadway and Grammy awards, to the lows of suicide attempts, illiteracy and destructive relationships. Her life has been an open book, so consider The Definition Of…, her fifth studio album, a self-help manual on love, life and relationships.
Tasia embraces her inner wild child on the energetic opener “Crazy,” reminding us that “I do what I like, I’ve got nothing to prove.” On “No Time for It,” she channels Lil Kim circa 1996, dismissing distractions while saying she’s “strictly focused on the commas.” She’d rather sip some Cristal with the real ones, I guess. And on the funky “So Blue,” Fantasia readily admits her transgressions, longing for the days when her man “made my heart go boom-cat-cat.”
It’s a giant leap for a woman who was once burdened by tabloid headlines and Twitter gossip.
The album boasts many strong themes, but nothing is a strong as Tasia’s voice – easily the most potent weapon in her arsenal. “Sleeping with the One I Love” is a smoky, stirring vocal performance – delivered with the rafter-shaking intensity that has become Tasia’s trademark. Few of her peers could pull of this type of record, and she belts out the notes with ease.
As great as “Sleeping with the One I Love” is, it also highlights the album’s greatest flaw – outside of that particular track, The Definition Of… sorely needs a couple more memorable efforts to anchor the experience. Sure, songs like “Wait for You” burst with 1980s energy and the gospel-drenched “I Made It” is a rousing finale, but they don’t stick with you after the album stops spinning.
Nearly everything here is well done – though Tasia goes a bit overboard on the hook for “Roller Coasters” (“RAWWND AND RAWWND!!!”). But considering the album’s brief running time (less than 50 minutes), there’s not much time for many songs to make an impression.
The Definition Of… is Fantasia at her most confident. From the uplifting optimism of “Stay Up” to the affirmation of beauty preached in “Ugly,” Fantasia is unapologetically raw and refreshingly real. Inconsistent pacing and a lack of standout tracks make the collection far from flawless, but hey, neither is Fantasia.
She may have flaws but they no longer define her. There’s more to her story.
Best tracks: “Sleeping with the One I Love,” “So Blue,” “No Time For It”
3.5 stars out of 5