Few would accuse Fantasia of a reluctance to abide by the wisdom that what you've got, you should flaunt, and the vocal gusto she slathers over her full-length debut gets partial credit for earning--and keeping--your attention. To a greater extent, though, the high-wattage help heaped over the Idol 3
champ and Patti LaBelle
-sound-alike makes the disc dazzle. In addition to pitch-ins from Missy Elliott
, who produced and co-wrote three tracks and busts out a two-snaps-up rhyme on "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)," Jazze Pha duets on the ultra-mod "Don't Act Right" and Jermaine Dupri
wrote and produced the smolderer "Got Me Waiting." Surprisingly, though, it's not those tracks or even the Idol
-propelled cover of the Gershwins' "Summertime" that will stick with listeners most. Instead, first single "Truth Is," a sweet, old-school R&B lament directed toward a lost love, and "Baby Mama," a spirited shout-out to hard-working single mothers, snare standout status with their from-the-gut authenticity. Keeping it real is what won Fantasia the hearts of millions on TV, and despite Free Yourself
's likable slickness, it convinces that--hot commodity or no--she's not about to forget it. -Tammy La Gorce
AN ASTONISHING VOICE! AN ELECTRIFYING SOUL! THE STUNNING DEBUT AMERICA HAS BEEN WAITING FOR! HER POWERHOUSE DEBUT ALBUM FEATURING THE #1 SMASH "I BELIEVE" AND MUCH MORE!