Fantasia – I Believe

First Hit #1: July 10, 2004

Merry Christmas everyone, how about some generic uplift to go with your presents?

American Idol singles have settled into a formula. We’re still a few years from when the show didn’t guarantee their favored contestant a number one single, since it was still a cultural institution big enough to get a fan reaction no matter what the singer actually released. It’s also a formula that makes sense for the show – the finale songs can be interpreted as being about how amazing it is to reach the final rounds of American Idol, with vaguely inspirational lyrics, and in Fantasia’s case, going full blown gospel with a big choir in the background. The side effect of this, which was also apparent with both Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken is that the song feels frustrating impersonal – the American Idol narrative is put in place long before the finalist is decided, after all, and they’re going to sing something that fits the narrative.

Still, I like Fantasia’s voice, she has a sound that is somewhat akin to a more polished Macy Gray. She can’t really do much with the lyrics, which are rife with mixed metaphors, but she’s at least a compelling performer, and the first American Idol whose big single makes me think I’d like to hear more from them. True, the other two made compelling singles later on – Clarkson more than Aiken – but their initial singles didn’t really make me wonder what they were capable of as an artist. Fantasia’s does, even if I’m not a fan of it, because her performance is better than the song really deserves.

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One Response to Fantasia – I Believe

  1. RBerman says:

    Treacly paint-by-numbers pablum indeed. Did the authors of “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” get royalties? Her follow up torch song “Truth Is” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e265_NvKvRQ) was superior in lyric, melody, arrangement, and performance. She does have a bit of Macy Gray/Dionne Farris rasp.

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