Fantasia Barrino was one of my personal favorite American Idol winners. Some people may have been most invested in her story as a single teenage mother who ‘made it’ by being the victor of the third season of American Idol, but for me, the investment was Fantasia’s unique voice which as a mix of Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle. But with fame and newfound success comes vices, and Fantasia has had her fair share. Her appearance is easily victim to chastisement, particularly the infamous catwoman outfit she sported when she performed with Idol’s third-place finisher Joshua Ledet, who looked shocked himself . Add the the tattoos and the ill-fitting/looking ‘semi-normal’ outfits (other than Catwoman which she’ll never live down) and Fantasia’s presentation is well, a disaster.
But of course, an outfit is the least of the R&B stars issues. There was that suicide attempt, having a baby by a married man, missing multiple shows from The Color Purple, etc. Recently, her comments drew some fire in relation to what some saw as a criticism of gay marriage. Fantasia claims it was taking out of context. All this said, Fantasia has had her share of issues. She hopes to cope by releasing her new single “Lose To Win”.
Free Yourself (Released November, 23 2004)
Before breaking apart “Lose To Win”, reexamination of Fantasia’s career track record seems worthwhile. She released her first album in 2004, the four-time Grammy nominated Free Yourself (Best Female R&B Vocal Performance “Free Yourself”, Best Traditional R&B Performance “Summertime”, Best R&B Song “Free Yourself” and Best R&B Album). Fantasia’s winning single “I Believe” gave her her first and only no. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was reprised on Free Yourself. Free Yourself was officially led by single “Truth Is”, which was a moderate success, peaking at no. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 (it sampled The Isley Bros.’s “The Highways of My Life.”) Other singles didn’t peak as high including “Baby Mama” which may have been an ‘anthem’ for single mothers, but seemed an unorthodox choice for a single, hence its no. 60 peak position. More notable single “Free Yourself” was arguably the ‘crown jewel’, despite only peaking at no. 41.
Free Yourself debuted lower than previous Idol debuts at no. 8, but sold a respectable 240,000 copies against a stacked release week that included U2 and Gwen Stefani‘s first solo effort, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. The album would be certified platinum, just shy of double-platinum certification with 1.8 million copies sold.
Fantasia (released December 12, 2006)
Fantasia and company took a huge risk releasing her sophomore album during December of 2006. The risk didn’t pay off as expected, with Fantasia bowing at no. 19 with 133,000 copies. Additionally, the album cover art drew a somewhat negative reaction. Thankfully, slow but steady sales would propel the solid sophomore effort to gold status, though a far cry from the 1.8 million that welcomed her debut. Many consider Fantasia to be a better album than her debut; some even consider it the best.
The promo single “Hood Boy” featuring Big Boi was styled much like R&B bangers of the day, but failed to gain traction and bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100. This wasn’t good news for an album already bowing unimpressively. Second single “When I See U”, produced by Midi Mafia would be the boost Fantasia would need to salvage the album from going absolutely nowhere quickly. Fantasia would receive three more Grammy nominations, including Best R&B Female Vocal Performance for no. 1 R&B single “When I See U” (no. 32 on pop charts) and Best Contemporary R&B Album.
Back To Me (Released August 10, 2010)
It would take a lengthy 4 years for Fantasia to release her third solo effort, Back To Me. For a relatively unstable selling new artist like Fantasia, that could’ve been career suicide. She was aided by a classic-sounding single in “Bittersweet” (written by Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly) which really caught on in the urban community (no. 7 on Hot R&B/Hip Songs) and given the waning R&B tide at the time, did respectably on the Hot 100 (no. 74). “Bittersweet” would earn Fantasia a Grammy award – a ceremony which she didn’t attend, strange considering I felt she was the frontrunner (and I was right of course). The album itself continued to show off Fantasia’s impressive voice, even when the material didn’t seem like it would provide Fantasia with a breakthrough pop record.
Back To Me debuted at a career high no. 2, just behind Katy Perry’s gargantuan pop album Teenage Dream. It sold decently, selling 117,000 copies, considering Fantasia’s extended absence. Originally, however, it was projected to sale more competitively with Perry. Fantasia would released two more singles, “I’m Doing Me” and “Collard Greens and Cornbread”. Neither were ‘big’ hits.
New Single: “Lose To Win”
Now after two-plus years, Fantasia returns with a new single entitled “Lose To Win”. Sampling 1985 hit “Nightshift” by The Commodores, the sample is prevalent (over-prevalent being honest). The single was released January 8, 2012 for digital download and premiered near the end of 2012. Vocally, Fantasia sounds strong enough (as to be expected), but “Lose To Win” is no “Bittersweet”. “Lose To Win” doesn’t have that same ‘wow’ factor as the Grammy-winning cut.
You get the notion that producers are opting for pop crossover, but in a way that still preserves the singer’s soulfulness. Listening to it, I don’t hear ‘pop’ hit and am unsure how well it will fare in urban circles. It’s a bit clunky and underwhelming, ultimately, particularly given the message ole girl is trying to convey. Which leads me to the question, how commercially viable is Fantasia, particularly as R&B continues to suffer into 2013? Will she have sustainable numbers? I think that she and her peeps better plan on releasing something more than “Lose To Win”. It won’t be enough.