Seven of its 12 songs were co-written by Fantasia , so it's a little surprising that the fourth album from the American Idol winner doesn't bear a title like Here I Am or I, Fantasia. Nearly a decade removed from her nationally televised triumph, Fantasia 's not only contributing significantly to the songwriting process, she continues to draw top-rank, well-matched collaborators such as songwriter and producer Harmony Samuels ( Keyshia Cole 's "Enough of No Love," Ariana Grande 's "The Way"), who had a hand in each song. Since Fantasia and Harmony drive so much of the material, Side Effects of You is a more personal, more consistent set of songs than Free Yourself , Fantasia , and Back to Me . That's not to say there isn't a multitude of sounds within the several high points. They include "Lose to Win," which rather brilliantly samples and twists Commodores ' mournful-yet-uplifting 1985 hit "Nightshift"; the dexterous, part-reggae "Ain't All Bad," and the perfectly poised and hard-hitting "End of Me." And then there's "Change Your Mind," which daringly incorporates Whitney Houston 's "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (1990) and should not work yet does so in a convincing manner. Throughout, Fantasia 's approach is as refined as ever. She rarely wails. A few songs come up short, such as the stodgy and frilly "If I Was a Bird," the merely passable title track (a theatrical ballad co-written by Emeli Sandé ), and the peppy, drama-flicking "Lighthouse" (a better fit, cursing excepted, for Chrisette Michele ), but they're not glaring. Seven or eight years after she was supposed to be an AI punch line in another line of work, Fantasia has released her finest album yet. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
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