Not a Sophie Ellis Bextor cover…
Michaelangelo Matos: Am I just a mark for R&B throwbacks or what? Well, sorry — take this semi-recommendation with whatever grain of salt you want to. I’m attracted to the shape of the song, though her singing doesn’t quite do it for me until the spoken part. But yeah, it has a spoken part. And a sitar. And a real backbeat. So I give.
Martin Skidmore: I’m mystified by her relative commercial failure since her Idol-winner year in 2004. I think she’s a wonderful singer, who has the technical skill and nimbleness of Corinne Bailey Rae, but so much else besides. I had hoped this might be a cover of the Chairmen of the Board classic, but no — still, it’s a good song, and the subject always offers real opportunities for an intelligent vocalist, and she rides the emotional balance here very well. Excellent.
Chuck Eddy: Has she ever been anything better than mediocre? I have no idea; all I know is, compared to the current ballad hits by Toni Braxton and Alicia Keys (neither of which is as good as a couple dozen Chitlin Circuit/Southern Soul singles I’ve heard this year), this one is an absolute blank.
John Seroff: “Bittersweet” provides a great, if derivative, canvas for Fantasia’s endearingly schmaltzy Broadway impulses; it’s chockablock with thick-tongued bombast, hoarse elisions and strangled howls. For all her soul trappings, the artist Fantasia most reminds me of here is Liza Minelli. That’s not exactly a knock unless you need it to be.
Alfred Soto: Fantasia’s chalky tang evokes Patti LaBelle, which makes them both rather unsuited for ballads. This one is particularly unmemorable. As overexposed as Tricky Stewart is, I’d rather he created albums for would-be supper club divas like Fantasia than waste more time on vanity projects for superstars whose battle-tested personae refuse to mesh with his.
Katherine St Asaph: Wait, Claude Kelly did this? How? Dumb luck? Bribery? One of those Dollhouse imprints? Or probably it’s just Fantasia. His song is more mediocre heartbreak stuff, but Tasia’s performance soaks it in emotion it doesn’t entirely deserve. Singers, take notes.
Jonathan Bogart: Wait wait wait — someone associated (once upon a time, yes, I know) with American Idol has a voice like that?! I’m going to have to remember to listen to everything she’s ever recorded. But back to the song: I love it when a recording sounds like a 70s soul number but could only have been made now, whenever now is. (See also: My Life, “I Try” and “Deja Vu.”) The Dap- who?
Anthony Easton: That line about the cardboard boxes slays me every time I hear it: the album’s emotional rawness and its ability to make choices, and how that works thru an almost bipolar style, has its locus in those two lines about that god-damn cardboard box…