COZUMEL, Mexico – Talk bad about Fantasia Barrino in front of her fans at your own peril.
People don’t just cheer for Fantasia; they have taken ownership of her. It was if the emotional singer reached inside everyone’s chest and permanently altered the shape of their hearts. She had their hearts in her hands, and she squeezed ever so gently even as she gushed forth her raw and powerful renditions of Prince songs and Michael Jackson dance moves inside Studio B of the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage.
“I simply love Fantasia,” Selinda Walker of Chicago said. “I just don’t how she goes so hard for so long,” she added as we listened to her performance via the airwaves in the bowels of the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage.
That was it. The next night, I had to be present to witness in person what I had heard the night before.
Fantasia’s personal challenges aside — or perhaps partially because of them — the R&B singer boasts a discipleship of passionate fans that entertainers with more industry cache, experience and hits only wish they could develop.
Rihanna, for example has six consecutive years with No. 1 hits, a rare feat in American music. Yet she was asked to cancel her tour because she cannot sell enough tickets.
Fantasia, on the other hand, lifted her fans up the emotional summit by her vocals, her impromptu dances, testimonials and random hugs of the fans. She led a virtual religious revival aboard the Tom Joyner cruise. Stretching the limits of her vocal chords like a rubber band throughout her hour-long set, the “American Idol” winner and reality show star put people on their backs — literally. One woman had to be escorted out because she was about to pass out. Another woman couldn’t control her leaky eyes and didn‘t seem to care who was watching her.
Much like a younger Whitney Houston, who took ownership of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” and the national anthem, Fantasia performed “Purple Rain” like she invented it. The crowd parted as she walked through the audience to open up with “Kiss,“ her head poking above like a shark’s fin, and she stayed there for most of her set. The stage was an afterthought, which she didn’t go up until she was joined by legend Chuck Brown.
On a cruise that promotes and nurtures old-school artists, new-school Fantasia and her throwback style endeared her to the ship’s attendees. –terry shropshire