Fantasia’s Indefinable ‘The Definition Of…': A Crash Course
Here's the thing about thematically uniform albums: They're really hard to make. Put aside label pressures and creative strain — the act of stringing together a dozen works dreamed up by disparate writers and producers can be like trying to thread a needle with a tree trunk. Rather than contrive genre and pick a particular lane to begrudgingly traverse, Fantasia made an unorthodox choice with her sixth studio album, released today (July 29).
She's decided against deciding.
The Definition Of..., the follow-up to the to 2013's Side Effects Of You, treats style like it's Silly Putty — one minute, you've got a squished-together country ballad, the next, a flattened-out calypso slow-burn. Across 11 tracks, Fantasia shifts gears as frequently as she did on American Idol, when following up a Barry Manilow single with "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" didn't seem strange. Somehow, though, it works — it's more intentional heterogeneity than frantic mess, and will likely have you questioning why more albums aren't taking as many left turns.
Still, if left turns make you queasy, we've decided to plot out a Definition road map. Enjoy the ride, and tell us what you think of the album in the comments.
If you like big, bold Tom Jones numbers... You'll dig "Sleeping With The One I Love," a dramatic, classic ballad replete with sweeping builds and breathless exclamations. It's a modern sister track to "I Who Have Nothing" shrouded in timid, brassy horn segments that give way to Fantasia's signature esophagus-shredding wails.
If you like Carly Rae Jepsen's E·MO·TION... Check out "Wait For You," the star of which is an unabashed, nothing-but-pure-pop hook. After opening with a phone call straight from Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name," the track, which includes crickets as supporting players, jets into a sense of limitless "Run Away With Me"-leaning nostalgia. Don't let the verses' jazzy lounge piano fool you — it's Top 40 to its core.
If you're a Miranda Lambert stan... "Ugly" should do the trick. When the lyrics include "Gimme that rusty old grain silo," you know you're headed somewhere backroads and bourbon-soaked. Still, "Ugly" is no gimmick — It's actually one of Fantasia's best vocals in years, and her navigation of piano tremors and bluegrass guitar is the product of total, unrelenting conviction.
If Dawn's Blackheart is up your alley... Get "Stay Up" in your sights. Featuring Stacy Barthe, the moody, off-tempo experiment exists somewhere between consciousness and and restless sleep. A little bit tribal, a little bit funk, it could score an sunrise-painted after party, when daze and delirium have sunk in to pleasing effect.
Love Fantasia's own "Truth Is"? Sink your teeth into "When I Met You," an affecting, from-the-gut recounting of how a relationship restored 'Tasia's sense of self. "When I met you, I met me too," she croons over inviting snap-cadences and strings that could make Scrooge beam. It's early '90s benevolent R&B-pop at its most optimistic.
Kelly Rowland get you going? "No Time For It" is what you're after. Sunny but playfully sinister; relaxed but ready to throw down, it's a slow jam with a score to settle, and warns a clueless second party that bad behavior will no longer be tolerated. "Do you thing, get your change / By the way don’t you think I’ma care cause I’m not," Fantasia spits in a combination acid-rosewater solution.
Like relaxed-but-buzzy girl group pop? You can practically hear "Crazy" playing over a London-getaway romcom. The intro to The Definition Of... delivers an unmistakable message — "I'm young and I'm black and I'm missing a screw" — on a foundation of out-of-left field electric guitar. It's bright and bubbly, but with enough snarl to keep it fresh.
Need an additional I-persevered-and-finally-made-it battle cry? There's a song actually called "I Made It." Sure, the trumpet progressions are a little bit "Under The Sea," but damn if it doesn't inspire you to run the extra mile, push through the last rep or dance in circles through clouds of victory-confetti.
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