It’s entirely possible to craft a coherent album without much connective tissue, be it through some sort of overarching theme, or a collective energy that the songs embody, but sometimes it’s hard to escape the feeling that an album is just an unruly collection of songs. American Idol winner Fantasia’s new album The Definition Of… very much falls into this trap. Armed with a murderer’s row of producers (R. Kelly, GRADES, Brian Kennedy and more), Fantasia has evidently tried to explore many different styles of contemporary R&B, but the unfortunate side effect of this, is that The Definition Of… feels confused and incoherent, lacking any sort of overarching structure, or defining personality.
The most telling thing about the album is just how easy it is to allocate a different comparison to each individual song. Wait for You is the Carly Rae Jespsen song, When I Met You is the Whitney Houston song, Roller Coasters is the Aloe Blacc song, and it even features his guest vocals. Fantasia obviously wanted to try her hand a variety of styles, and she executes them all competently (Wait for You is actually extremely catchy), but very little stands out.
The only particularly notable track is Ugly, because it manages to find a personal intimacy that other tracks just can’t muster. As opposed to the fairly boilerplate love songs that make up most of the album, Ugly sees Fantasia reminiscing about her childhood, her circumstances, and the mistakes she’s made, according to her own comments on the song’s Genius page. Some of the lyrics feels somewhat trite – “now skinny jeans and Maybelline / make pretty girls do crazy things” – but some feel legitimately affecting and melancholic – “Picket fence, two car garage / and a man that she don’t love / be he makes six figures / and she thought he’d fix her”. The sentiment is blunt, but eminently relatable, and demonstrates Fantasia at her best.
Whilst it may feature one notable standout moment, The Definition Of… is an album in search of a theme. The songs are individually strong (for the most part), but they add to less than the sum of their parts, and their proximity to one another actually highlights the apparent lack of personality in most of them. Fantasia is a gifted artist, with a strong voice, and the ability to write a moving turn of phrase, but The Definition Of… isn’t the album to showcase her.