Fantasia Embraces Eclecticism on ‘The Definition of’
Fantasia delivers an eclectic fifth album. Like many eclectic albums, sometimes risks lead to rewards and other times not so much.
Fantasia is undoubtedly one of the music world’s most gifted vocalists. Quite underrated, arguably, the reason that she’s been underrated has been the lack of hits. Fantasia has experienced her fair share of success on the Billboard Hot 100 but has struggled there since 2010 LP Back To Me. Side Effects of You (2013) yielded no major hits, nor did it flirt with gold certification.
The question becomes, is The Definition of meant to be a reboot – a redefinition – of Fantasia? Ultimately, The Definition of is an eclectic effort that is effective at times and less effective at others. It seems as if Fantasia and executive producer Ron Fair try to do everything. Ultimately, “doing everything” ends up being too much.
The Definition of…
“Crazy” initiates The Definition of with a bang – it is completely different from anything Fantasia has released to this point. Produced by Jerome “JROC” Harmon, “Crazy” is a combination of rock, pop, and soul. It is intriguing, if clunky and imperfect. “No Time for It” is more straightforward, firmly entrenched in contemporary R&B. Sound, but not flashy, “No Time” is a better fit. Fantasia even throws in swag when she references “commas.”
“So Blue” gives The Definition of another winning song. “So Blue” makes excellent use of a jazzy-soul groove. Clearly, old-school is written all the song. Fantasia excels in moments like these, showcasing a mean attitude – she’s confident and feisty.
Follow-up “When I Met You” has its moments, with Fantasia elevating her game with incredible high notes towards the end. Harmonically, the progression is old-school, giving the song more character. While respectable, “When I Met You” is too repetitive, specifically iterations of the titular lyric.
“Sleeping With the One I Love”
“Sleeping With the One I Love” is “hands down” the crème de la crème from The Definition. R. Kelly, writer, and producer, outdoes himself. “Sleeping” recalls Kelly’s retro-soul albums Love Letter and Write Me Back. The bass line is sick, the organ adds a dash of gospel, the strings haunting, and the horns evoke jazz. Vocally, Fantasia is in the zone.
“Stay Up” (featuring Stacy Barthe) doesn’t reach the high mark set by “Sleeping.” A bit quirky, it takes a moment to get into the feel & flow. The message is optimistic and thoughtful, but more substance, particularly on the refrain, would’ve elevated it. To its credit, the refrain is catchy.
“Ugly” isn’t perfect atonement, but listeners following the promo campaign for The Definition of will be familiar with it. A “grower,” arguably “Ugly” is too country for Fantasia, given her R&B persona. That said, it is easy to see what the writers were going for. When Fantasia lets loose towards the end, she’s at her best; she could’ve taken it even further.
“Wait for You” possesses a modern R&B vibe and has a danceable quality. The songwriting is so-so; cliché and unexceptional. Still, a catchy chorus provides a lift. “Roller Coasters” invites Aloe Blacc for the ride (no pun intended). Definitely unconventional, “Roller Coasters” is nonetheless alluring. There are many pros: a killer groove, strings, robust vocals from Fantasia, and the harmonies to name a few. Aloe Blacc’s contributions are interesting – definitely out of the box. The abrupt key change is odd, but the brighter sound when raised a half-step works once the ear adjusts.
“Lonely Legend,” like “Crazy,” isn’t quite as effective as some of its colleagues. The middle Eastern cues are creative, but not necessarily a fit for a Fantasia record. Eclectic, “Lonely Legend” is a bit undercooked. Closer “I Made It” features contemporary gospel artist Tye Tribbett, who is very much a genre unto himself. “I Made It” is disjointed, but not far-fetched from Tribbett’s own ambitious records. A representative of her Christian faith, “I Made It” is oxymoronic – a perfectly imperfect closing statement.
All in all, The Definition of is incredibly ambitious, yet all over the place. Clearly, the M.O. with The Definition of was to make it appeal to pop audiences while not compromising Fantasia’s extraordinary talent. For the most part, it succeeds, but save for a couple of moments, it doesn’t exceed. Still, The Definition of is an album that grows riper with successive listens. It’s not Fantasia’s best, but it has its moments. What is consistent are the vocals – Fantasia sounds superb.
Gems: “No Time for It,” “So Blue,” “Sleeping with the One I Love,” “Ugly”