ALBUM THROWBACK: FANTASIA | SIDE EFFECTS OF YOU (2013)
Fantasia Barrino has always been steadily, moderately, successful without a ton of fanfare. She’s scored a series of hits on the R&B chart. She did a successful run on Broadway in "The Color Purple." She’s even got a Grammy under her belt, joining the aforementioned Clarkson and Underwood as the only Idol champs to earn one of those trophies. Fantasia’s fourth studio album, "Side Effects of You," was released on April 23, 2013, by RCA Records after the disbanding of J Records in 2011. If you’re a fan of Fantasia’s three previous albums, there won’t be much that surprises you "Side Effects of You." It’s a delightful collection of well-written R&B songs. You might pick up subtle things, such as Fantasia doesn’t scream quite as much as she used to, and there are no patented Babyface or Diane Warren attempts at adult contemporary crossover. Still, it falls in pretty neatly with "Free Yourself," "Fantasia," and "Back to Me."
Fantasia co-wrote most of the songs on the album, which gives the album a somewhat more personal feel. Wisely, though, she steers clear of directly referencing the man drama that landed her on the TMZs of the world that caused a rumoured suicide attempt. Sure, almost all the songs are about gaining love or losing love, but they’re relatable to just about anyone who’s ever been in a relationship. For proof, check out the first single, “Lose to Win.” Despite a somewhat awkward sample of The Commodores’ hit “Nightshift,” it strikes the perfect balance between mournful and uplifting. Fantasia’s singing from the gut and the heart on this one. “Ain’t All Bad” rides on top of a low-key reggae groove, making it a great summer song, while the sassy “Change Your Mind” successfully interpolates Whitney Houston’s smash “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” It’s a nice, low-key shout-out to someone who was undoubtedly a major influence on Fantasia’s singing career.
"Side Effects" is solid straight through, and while there are no slam-dunk one-listen smashes, there’s also not one terrible song on the entire album. While the album is packed with soul jams, the “Get It Right” singer hasn't abandoned her hip-hop roots. She teamed up with Mississippi MC Big K.R.I.T. on the first track, “Supernatural Love.” She also teamed up with long-time collaborator Missy Elliott and “Motivation” singer Kelly Rowland on “Without Me,” which served as the second single. Elliott has a pleasant singing voice that would have suited this song better than the 16 bars she decides to drop. The title track is a heartfelt ballad in which Fantasia sings of a man as if he were a drug. This track marks a shift in the album's tone; the album speeds up a bit after this song. "Side Effects of You" closes with “In Deep,” a passionate song that shows although Fantasia’s been burned by love, she’s still an addict.
Overall, "Side Effects of You" is an enjoyable album with many standard contemporary R&B cues. Even taking some risks, Fantasia doesn’t go overly ‘left-of-center’ stylistically. She always sounds superb, but that’s the expectation from such a distinct, vocal talent. "Side Effects of You" has a consistent production and lyrical content flow. Even though the songwriting themes seemed redundant, those songs are highly personal to the singer. She lived those records. Those emotions and messages can not be faked or duplicated by anyone else but Fantasia.