Fantasia’s sophomore effort isn’t exactly her Breakaway, but it’s certainly a more unified artistic statement than 2004’s Free Yourself—it’s self-titled for a reason. Unlike many American Idol releases, there’s nothing whitewashed about Fantasia—just look at the cover art. It’s a largely uptempo album, showcasing production talent over vocal prowess (samples play key roles in the success of tracks like “Hood Boy,” which cribs the intro to The Supremes’ “The Happening,” and the Al Green-aping “Baby Makin’ Hips,” a brass-filled production in the Rich Harrison/Kanye West mold), but there are still a few slow jams for fans of the voice that used to make Paula misty on a weekly basis. “When I See U” is a Celine Dion-style ballad with an urban flare courtesy of Midi Mafia and Mzmeriq, while Babyface proves he can still crank out a “current” yet durable hit when necessary with the Diane Warren-penned “I Feel Beautiful.” Fan and past collaborator Missy Elliott is on the console for three songs, gifting Fantasia with lines like “I look too good for my necklace” on the indignant “I’m Not That Type.” Unfortunately, she’s also responsible for the hokey unemployment metaphors of “Two Weeks Notice,” which is only half as—to use one of Simon Cowell’s favorite adjectives—dreadful as “I Nominate U,” a drippy sex ballad with an overextended metaphor only a nationwide competition winner could relate to.
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