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Much has changed for Fantasia Barrino since the release of her 2004 debut, Free Yourself. The American Idol season three winner has co-authored a best-selling book, which in turn spawned a Lifetime Television movie, and also earned four Grammy nods. With the release of Fantasia, she gets back to what she does best -- making music.

The many changes in her life spill over into her music; both in attitude and approach, this is a different Fantasia. With Free Yourself, she gave fans a slick urban sound that fit the definition of mainstream and was designed to satisfy the Idol audience. This time around, she delves into her roots and emerges with an older R&B sound, providing the album that many fans might have expected the first time around.

That doesn't mean she has entirely forsaken her slickly produced street sound. On "Hood Boy," the album's opening track and first single, she gives hip-hop a breath of fresh air. Throwing in some '70s soul and a rap from OutKast's Big Boi, it is an energized bit of music that stands out as one of the disc's best tracks. She extols the virtues of a hood boy, explaining what she likes about them and why she just can't settle for a polished uptown brother. She isn't the first artist to record this song, but she gives it some nice personal touches.

The album is packed with some high-energy tracks that benefit from some guest producers. Dre & Vidal lend their talents to "I Nominate U" and "Baby Makin Hips" while Swizz Beatz shows up to capture the essence of lingering desire on "Surround U." For much of the album, Fantasia's mind is clearly on the boys. She explores every facet of a relationship, from initial longing to a relationship's sorrowful aftermath, over the course of the album.

Ubiquitous songwriter Diane Warren penned the empowering "I Feel Beautiful." The song has an intimate feel as Fantasia sings about overcoming the negative messages she learned as a child and growing into a woman who realizes that true beauty comes from within. It's a valuable message that is delivered with a sense of sadness for the past and hope for the future.

When it comes to empowerment, nothing on the disc tops "Two Weeks Notice," a defiant breakup song in which she realizes she isn't being treated right and decides to do something about it. She serves notice that she's on her way out, and runs through a laundry list of wrongs that led up to this departure. It's an in-your-face goodbye that seems to gain power with each note.

"Bore Me (Yawn)" stands out as one of Fantasia's most entertaining tracks. Her take on a one-sided relationship is feisty with a funky, catchy beat. When she learns of her boyfriend's infidelity, she turns the tables on him and calls it off, once again sending an empowering message of self-worth to her female fans.

The Missy Elliott-penned and produced track "Bump What Ya Friends Say" closes out this collection with a gospel flavor and a soothing message. Her encouraging words about following your heart instead of letting others tell you what to do is the perfect wrap to an album where Fantasia has, clearly, learned to practice what she's preaching.

By Paula Felps
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Last Updated: 17 Dec 2007 19:13:31 PST home  |  about  |  terms  |  contact
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