Fantasia, Side Effects of You | Album Review
Fantasia delivers an enjoyable fourth studio album with ‘Side Effects of You.’ It’s imperfect, but all in all, well-rounded.
Fantasia possessed one of the best voices when she was crowned the winner of American Idol, in 2004. While her debut album, Free Yourself wasn’t a huge ‘pop’ success, it was certified platinum and nominated multiple Grammys certainly means something. Despite relative success, she’s had a host of personal issues, including a troubling suicide attempt prior to the release of Back to Me (2010). For her fourth album, Side Effects of You, Fantasia seems like she’s on the up-and-up. While imperfect, Side Effects of You is enjoyable and well-rounded all in all.
“Supernatural” is a solid way to open Side Effects of You. The production work is superb, powered by gargantuan drums and lush quality. Fantasia establishes the tone in a spoken word intro:
“The world says that this love is not good for me / But my heart says that it is / I never loved like this before.”
The catchy chorus brings “Supernatural” together:
“I’m a lady, I’m a woman / I’m a lover, I’m a daughter / But when I’m with you, I have powers / supernatural, the love is ours / baby this how you make me feel.”
Big K.R.I.T. drops a verse. It’s nothing too flashy. It is indeed Fantasia who’s the star.
“Ain’t All Bad” fuses reggae and contemporary R&B styled productions in one. The verses and bridge assimilate to the tropical sound, while the choruses are firmly rooted in R&B. At first, it seems a bit clunky, but as is many times the case, it grows on one once the feel is clearly perceived. Fantasia similarly plays up the contrasts, but does so most noticeably on the bridge section, where the gimmickry suits the style.
“If I Was a Bird” is less thrilling given its simplicity, but there are enough ‘pieces’ here for short-lived enjoyment. The chorus is the most schmaltzy drawback:
“If I was a bird I’d fly out here / Forget everything and travel the world.”
While it’s not deep, the production serves as some sense of atonement and, as always, Fantasia sings well, sounding in great voice.
“Without Me” follows a foreshadowing interlude, “Girl Talk.” “Without Me” is the type of cut that will thrill progressives and irk traditionalists. “Without Me” favors the style of featured guest, Kelly Rowland. Fantasia, known more for her adult-contemporary sound, steps out of her box a bit. “Freak shit will kill you / boy I know the real you,” the chopped and screwed recurrent line states. Fantasia handles the first verse, showing off a softer, more reserved side. Kelly Rowland is on autopilot on the second verse. Missy Elliott seals the ‘girl power’ anthem, exemplified by the chorus:
“But what would you be without me? / Where would you be without me? So, what you blowing up just a little…/ Don’t give a finger in the middle / Cause you will never be without me.”
Guys, are totally in the doghouse. “Side Effects of You” follows, co-written by Emeli Sandé. It’s respectable, but not necessarily elite.
“Get It Right”
“Get It Right” has modernized Motown production and accelerates the tempo. Fantasia evokes her big personality from the onset. It’s a good, though not magnificent record. She definitely captures listeners’ attention during the drum break, urging, “Give the motherf*cking drummer some.” For a comparison point, “Get It Right” sounds like a Bruno Mars record. “So Much to Prove,” likewise, is ‘funked-up.’ Overall, she delivers.
“Change Your Mind” finds Fantasia channeling her inner Whitney Houston, literally. 1990’s no. 1 smash “I’m Your Baby Tonight” is written all over this cut, most notably when Fantasia changes the lyrics to “The way that I’m gonna do you tonight.” The adult contemporary vibe illustrates Fantasia’s strong suits.
“Lighthouse” is a ‘grower,’ coming off a bit off-putting from a first listen. Again, Fantasia spreads her ‘parental advisory’ wings on the pointed pre-chorus:
“F*ck the b*tches and f*ck the fame / I’mma be here anyway / Don’t matter what the people say / I’mma be here anyway.”
Alrighty then. Similar to “Without Me,” Fantasia goes in a different direction, incorporating spoken word (quasi-rap). Differing from “Without Me,” it’s less effective.
“Lose to Win”
Initially critical of “Lose to Win,” It has grown on me. Still, the prominence of The Commodores’ sample (“Nightshift”) still seems ‘a bit much.’ Regardless, Fantasia sings it well and the chorus itself is definitely catchy:
“Have you ever, needed someone so bad / But he ain’t willing to make it last / Sometimes you gotta lose to win again / if it makes you cry, cry, cry.”
The impact of the message is felt if nothing else. Fantasia further delivers the goods on the exceptional “End of Me”, a good-ole adult-contemporary R&B/urban smash. “You make me wanna love you /Even those this love might be the end of me / And I can’t help but love, love, love you,” she asserts. Closer “In Deep” doesn’t match up to “Lose to Win” or “End of Me,” but lyrically, it shows her authenticity and investment.
Overall, Side Effects of You is a very enjoyable album with many of the standard contemporary R&B cues of today. Even taking some risks, Fantasia doesn’t go extremely ‘left-of-center’ stylistically. She always sounds superb, but that’s the expectations from such a distinct, vocal talent. The material for the most part suits her, though some of it could have been stronger. Any rubs with Side Effects lie within the material, like criticisms from her previous albums. Ultimately, Side Effects of You isn’t a game changer for the RB diva, but it is sound.
Gems: “Supernatural,” “Ain’t All Bad,” “Without Me,” “Lose to Win” & “End of Me”