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Fantasia Pours Her Heartbreak Into ‘Back to Me’

Joseph Llanes

Almost four years have elapsed since Fantasia put out her second, self-titled album in December 2006, but there has been no shortage of drama in her life. In the midst of a public marital scandal and recent suicide attempt, the 26-year-old singer returns with ‘Back to Me’ — a chronicle of all the heartbreak that went down behind the scenes.

“It’s been three long years of heartbreak since I’ve last had an album out,” Fantasia tells The BoomBox. “Everything that I went through in those three years, I just put it all into this album and let it be my testimony.”

Unlike her 2004 debut ‘Free Yourself and her self-titled follow-up, Fantasia did some writing on the ‘Back to Me.’ “I haven’t had the opportunity to show that side of myself,” she says. “The first album was so great because it just fit me so well but I didn’t get to do any writing. Everybody I worked with was watching, following and listening to what I was saying, so they came up with songs that were just right for me.”

In spite of the criticisms she may face in her personal life, you must give Fantasia some credit for baring her soul to the world. “I was really going through those situations and [those songs] did so well,” she says. “I always say that people want to hear the truth; people want to hear what you’re going through. They don’t want anybody to be ashamed or to hold back … because in life we all go through things. So many people could relate to ‘Free Yourself,’ and even the song ‘Baby Mama,’ it was just a relatable album.

Her personal turmoil has not subsided during her time in the spotlight -– fans can see for themselves on her VH1 reality show ‘Fantasia for Real’ — but after six years in the industry, the songstress has at least earned the right to call some of the shots on her latest studio effort. “They allowed me to just do me and follow my heart,” she says, proudly. “I’ve always wanted to have the kind of recording, where we can go into the studio with a live band, just singing in the booth. Ray Charles, Tina Turner — all those great artists back in the days recorded like that. I didn’t want this album to be too old, but just to have that old soul feel to it.”

Creating the perfect sound required a fresh team of producers who were in tune with Fantasia’s vision. “Some of them I had heard of — Rico Love, Novel, KP, Stereotypes — but everybody is new and a lot of the people that I worked with aren’t big names,” she says. “I did that on purpose because there’s so much talent out there and we get stuck on the ones that are hot right now. There are a lot of voices that need to be heard and somebody’s just gotta get to them.”

Fantasia’s gospel background has always been a notable influence on her music, but her flourishing Broadway career and her roots on ‘American Idol’ both shine through on the album. “After doing Broadway for a year, and then taking on a role for nine months, I’ve taken a lot with me. I [decided to] title my album ‘Back To Me’ because I’ve had a lot of people just walk up to me and say, ‘I don’t know what you’ve been doing, or where you’ve been, but I feel like you’re that young lady we fell in love with when you first walked on the stage,” she says, referencing her glory days on ‘American Idol.’ “Broadway taught me some things vocally. I’m only 26-years-old, so I feel like I’m still growing but there are things I can do with my vocals that I never thought I could do.”

Fans can expect to hear a more mature version of Fantasia’s classic vocals on this album, dating from her 2004 debut. “I’ve been singing ever since I was five, so it took me awhile to get used to not riffing and running and putting a little ‘Tasia in it,” she says, about her Broadway work.

And while her production team may be a bit low-key, Ms. Barrino did recruit one heavy weight for the new album. “Cee Lo! I’ve been trying to get to this man forever. I have loved this man ever since Goodie Mob and I finally got to work with him,” she says, excitedly. “The song is titled ‘The Thrill Is Gone.’ It’s just a really good song, and I’m not just saying that because it’s mine. I feel like we have a great album on our hands.”

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