Fantasia Free Yourself

Fantasia Free Yourself

2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5

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Like almost every American Idol release, Fantasia Barrino’s Free Yourself is a smattering of everything that’s going on in mainstream R&B right now: a little bit of “Crunk & B” (“Don’t Act Right,” featuring Jazze Pha); a little bit of Usher (the “Burn” clone “Got Me Waiting,” produced by Jermaine Dupri and co-penned by Ciara); and a little Destiny’s Child (the “Lose Your Breath” redo “It’s All Good,” produced by the recently—and curiously—resurrected Rodney Jerkins). There’s a reason “Lose Your Breath” is so damn infectious (that damn marching band beat!) and the same goes for “It’s All Good,” but following such an overtly of-the-moment track with the karaoke-style schmaltz of “You Were Always On My Mind” is indicative of an artist who’s yet to define her own creative identity. Blah, blah, blah, I’ve said this all before—these talent show contestants are whisked off to overnight songwriting labs and recording studios way too quickly. Putting the Indian-flavored, Missy Elliott-produced “Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)” and the Gershwin classic “Summertime” (both hot tracks, any way you slice it) back-to-back might display Fantasia’s diverse musical tastes, but it’s as jarring as a post-Mottola Mariah album. There’s no denying the girl’s talent as an interpretative vocalist (I can already see myself falling asleep to the vanilla Whitney Houston posturing of Fantasia’s biggest Idol competition, LaToya London), but the studio version of “Summertime” doesn’t soar to the same heights as her more stripped down performance on the show. These are artists we’ve gotten to know in a live context, and like most of the albums by the Idols before her, Free Yourself doesn’t fully capture the Fantasia we watched make Paula weep on TV week after week.

Release Date
November 19, 2004
Amazon | iTunes

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