Singer Fantasia Barrino proves she can’t be boxed in.
Her latest album Side Effects of You is an eclectic mix of soulful R&B, heady hip hop and reggae beats that creates what she calls “rock soul.”
The Grammy-wining artist drew inspiration for her latest work from old-school R&B. She grew up in a musical family where Pattie Labelle, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Elton John and Bonnie Raitt were constantly played on the radio. Those influences are weaved throughout the album.
“I always like to give honor to those legends, like Lionel Richie and Aretha Franklin…because they inspired me,” Fantasia told the Austin Weekly News in a recent interview. “Even though I’m young, I am an old soul when it comes to music.”
Side Effects of You, released in April, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart and No. 2 on the Top 200 Albums chart.
But, the album, which Fantasia calls her “baby,” took some convincing for her record label (19 Recordings/RCA Records) to get behind. She’s been hitting the road promoting the CD. She’ll be performing Saturday at the 2nd Annual Concert in the Park in Roger’s Park.
“It was a fight with me to get this record dealing with my record company,” she said. “A lot of times people want to keep you in that one box, that one spot, doing one type of music or doing whatever is hot right now. It was an album that I really fought for.”
Her muse during her fight was producer Harmony Samuels. The London-born record producer worked with Fantasia to capture that “rock soul” sound. She credits that sound to him and his ability to play almost every instrument, from keyboards and drums to bass guitar.
“He has an ear that is out of this world when it comes to music. He just goes there with music,” Fantasia said.
She wanted to work with one producer, just as Michael Jackson had done with Quincy Jones on Thriller. Fantasia also wanted a body of work that told a story — her story.
“That is what this album is,” she said. “It was a chance for me to actually tell my story the way I want to tell it; not let the radio stations, the bloggers or anybody tell it, but coming from my mouth and musically the way I want it to be.”
The album also represents a kind of resilience for the 2004 American Idol winner. She’s seen her share of ups and downs in recent years, including a much publicized affair with a married man, financial woes and a suicide attempt. She pours all that joy and pain into her new aptly-titled release.
“I’ve never been afraid to tell or say what I’ve been through,” she said. “I like to take a lot of my stuff, as well as other people’s stuff, so when people here the songs they can relate.”
Fantasia worked with long-time music collaborator Missy Elliot on the song “Without You,” featuring former Destiny Child’s member Kelly Rowland. Originally, Fantasia recorded the tune solo, but wanted to spice it up by featuring more women on it.
“For me I wanted to have beautiful, dark-skinned chocolate women that can relate; that’s been through it,” she said.
Fantasia has definitely been through it.
But in a music industry that thrives on one-hit wonders, Fantasia has been able to avoid that box as well. Now a 10-year music industry veteran, she released three previous CD’s — her debut, Free Yourself, followed by Fantasia, and Back to Me.
As to her longevity in the sometimes cutthroat music industry, she said, “I was that young girl when people said I couldn’t do something. I would always prove that I could do it. So I made up my mind. I don’t do what I do for the approval of certain [people]; I do what I do to bless people through music.”