There is no doubt that Fantasia Barrino is one of the strongest singers on the contemporary music scene, and on her new album, “Back To Me,” she sings with a new level of maturity and self-assurance.
Obviously enjoying herself, the season three “American Idol” winner, fortunately, has mostly above average material to work with. And the album sounds better during a second full listen, especially when the lyrics are paid close attention.
Among the best songs are “Move On Me,” “Man of the House,” “Who’s Been Lovin’ You?” and “I’m Doin’ Me.” And then there’s the whimsical, somewhat doo-wop flavored “Collard Greens & Cornbread,” featuring a familiar hook from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s great hit “Your Precious Love,” a Nick Ashford-Valerie Simpson composition. (Seems Val and Nick are always “gettin’ paid.”)
There is no blockbuster, breakout number on “Back To Me” — something that could become a signature song for ’Tasia — but it is a pleasant listening experience. I give it an 8 out of a possible 10.
MARY J. BLIGE says that it is just a matter of time before she makes a gospel album, noting that it will be “probably sooner than later.” Blige believes she owes her stardom to remaining humble. “I give all the credit to God,” she said.
All that is well and good, but I have much apprehension regarding Blige portraying Nina Simone in the upcoming movie. Sounding nothing like Simone would be a big problem, unless she did lip-syncs like Jamie Foxx did in “Ray.” But Simone’s strange voice (supposedly) coming from Blige would be just too weird.
One of the ugliest feuds going on right now is between recording star Wyclef Jean and actor Sean Penn. The Academy Award-winning actor was very critical of Jean wanting to be president of his native Haiti and said he had disappeared when the people needed him most.
But then Jean hit below the belt, saying, “Maybe he hasn’t seen me in Haiti because he was too busy sniffing cocaine.”
A spokesperson for Penn fired back, “That Mr. Jean would make such a false accusation is reckless and saddening, but not surprising.”
Don’t invite those two to the same party!
Ne-Yo is again working with Beyoncé in the studio. Their last collaboration resulted in one of Beyoncé’s biggest hits, “Irreplaceable.”
SPEAKING of Beyoncé, Kimberley Locke, who placed third — behind Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken — in season two of “American Idol,” can relate to what Knowles was saying in her recent superhit, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).”
Locke had been going with Harvey Walden and she wanted to take the next step, but apparently the “Celebrity Fit Club” trainer didn’t, so she ended the relationship. Kimberley said, “If he really wanted to marry me, he would have done it by now.”
Terry McMillan, a major star in the world of authors, brought chuckles recently when she said, “A lot of problems in the lives of women start with men. There are a lot of scoundrels out there.” However, she then added, “But I think I still want one!”
McMillan, who was born in Port Huron, Michigan, has a new book — as always, targeted to women — titled “Getting to Happy,” which is the sequel to the massive hit “Waiting to Exhale.” It, of course, was made into movie, as was another McMillan smash, “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”
British rock star Eric Burdon, who has a deep love for blues and other Black root music, recalls tracking down Black music in the early and mid-1960s.
“It’s just within the Black community that you could hear the real thing,” said Burdon, who has a soulful style, most effectively evidenced on “House of the Rising Sun,” recorded with the Animals.
The Kennedy Center Honors ceremony takes place Dec. 5 in Washington, DC, hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. It will air on Dec. 28. Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney are among the honorees.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW…that the Sylvers, hitmaking family group from the ’70s, hailed from Memphis. Somehow it seemed that they would have been from Chicago, New York or somewhere in Pennsylvania.
MEMORIES (James Brown): “Cold Sweat,” “Out of Sight,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “Get On the Good Foot,” “I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me),” “I’ll Go Crazy,” “Hot Pants,” “The Payback,” “Sex Machine,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” “Money Won’t Change You,” “Prisoner of Love,” “Mother Popcorn,” “Ain’t That a Groove” and Fred Wesley & the J.B.’s “Doing It To Death,” which is thought of as a James Brown record.
BLESSINGS to Jim Campbell, Sabrina Owens, Lavonia Perryman, Jeff Showers, Virgil Wyatt, Bruce Knight, John Collins, Earline Franklin, J. “Skeek” Munger, Lamont Corbin, Frankie Darcell, Jackie Martin, Leni Sinclair and Gerald McBride.
WORDS OF THE WEEK: “There’s room at the top. It’s the bottom that’s crowded.”
Let the music play!
(Steve Holsey can be reached at Svh517@aol.com and PO Box 02843, Detroit, MI 48202.)