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Fantasia 

With Rahsaan Patterson. Friday, June 17, at the Palace Theatre.

At her very first American Idol audition, Fantasia Barrino stunned the judges into silence before they unanimously welcomed her to Hollywood. Emanating the countrified soul of Otis Redding and the raw sweetness of Tami Terrell, the single mom from High Point, North Carolina, sailed her way into the finale. When she belted out "I Believe," her first single, she took one and all straight to church. Comparisons to Aretha and Mary J. Blige abounded.

There were high expectations when her debut, Free Yourself, was released last November. Though the record topped the charts briefly, it fell far short of the artistry she displayed on AI. Instead, Fantasia delivered the kind of you-ain't-no-good-for-me-but-I-wantcha-anyway type of pap that any one of today's B-list R&B divas could fake their way through. Her recent single, "Baby Mama," teeters on novelty and has become cause for controversy.

In the big picture, it's hard to predict what will become of past AI champions. These kids come from nowhere, are thrust into the national spotlight, and are fed into the ruthless music-industry machine. Let's hope that somehow Fantasia will figure out a way to rekindle the inimitable qualities that so endeared her to the millions of AI watchers who first embraced her.

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