The Friday before the last Super Bowl in New Orleans, there was a Super Bowl Gospel Celebration held at the UNO Lakefront Arena. There was a woman in our section wearing a Best Buy shirt. Another woman in hospital scrubs seemed to be a nurse. Some of the women seemed to be celebrating girls night, but as artist after artist took the stage performed, these women all seemed impatient that they hadn’t seen the one person they’d come to see.
“Bring out Tasia, dammit!” a woman yelled. Her hair was two different shades of red.
“Yeah!” said another crew of women a few rows ahead of us.
I was impatient too. I was waiting to see what she was going to do and waiting to see why these women were riding so hard for ‘Tasia.
There were rumors swirling about her. Had she really tried to commit suicide? Was she some married man’s mistress? Did she really get caught up with some cell-phone-selling dude? And wasn’t there talk about her being addicted to drugs?
Didn’t really matter to me. The tickets were free. I didn’t identity as a fan but I did respect her grind to the top. I’m a sucker for rags to riches stories.
Finally, after even more waiting, the evening’s emcee implored us to get ready, stand on our feet, and welcome Fantasia.
The band plays, and she walks out. No special lights. No dancers. Nothing. Just Fantasia.
She shoos the band with her hand. They stop playing, and She takes the mic.
“Searched all ova / Couldn’t find nobody / Searched high and low / Still (couldn’t find nobody).”
She is singing Vashawn Mitchell’s gospel song “Nobody Greater.”
She takes her time. Repeats the words to the audience to her right. Then she walks to the left and points to the balcony. She sings it again to Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker who is now on his feet with tears in his eyes. She looks back at the band and waves them back into the song.
No Bod-tay she sings.
I lean into my husband: “You hear that? That girl say she searched and couldn’t find no-bod-tay.”
That ain’t GED talkin. That’s I’m a mess. Y’all know I’m a mess, but I’mma sing my way out of it.
Our entire section cheered. She killed. Set the stage on fire.The show could have ended there. It didn’t, and her tribe was mad again.
When the next artist came out one woman yelled, “We don’t want to see his lame ass! Bring ‘Tasia back!”
Quietly, I was co-signing.
I can be a music snob.
Videos rarely impress me. There are too many others involved in the creation of the illusion to give props to one person. I make clear distinctions in my mind between music and videos. I actually look for skill, lyrics, voice, stage presence, a catalog, interpretation. I may like an artist’s song here or there, but becoming a fan—it’s rare.
But ‘Tasia converted me.
Her willingness to sing ugly in a time of pressured perfection displays rare vulnerability. Most female singers ain’t trying to be that real not when everybody’s got their cell phones up. She don’t care what faces she makes when she sings; wherever spirit take her, she goes, so buckle up.
Stank: “the growl in a Diva’s voice as she ground out the low, angry notes. The totality of vocal swagger; even the sweetest notes. Every shocking grunt, every growl, every overflowing scream, and every sweet, almost sarcastically honeyed swing of low notes . angry, yet thoroughly candid woman who only sang songs about herself. dynamic, almost counterintuitive genius; a rude, sexy, angry, conflicted woman who, when she sang, could make you forget all about your own bullshit.”
It was getting late and we had to pick up our daughter from the babysitter. We decided to leave and just as we made our way from our seats to the exit, we hear: “Welcome back, Fantasia.”
We turn around, walk back and watch her from a distance.
Same fire. Hands in the air. ‘Tasia is the truth. Where had I been all this time?
Fantasia can sing gospel, go-go, musicals, hip-hop, R&B, reggae, white folk stuff and everything in between. She knows how to pivot herself in a song and do it the ‘Tasia way. Don’t expect a production. She’s a flat-footed singer. All the drama is in her voice.
She has figured out what works for her, and she’s got a tribe– not a Beyhive– but she’ got sisters who see themselves in her.
This goes out to all my baby mamas
This goes out to all my baby mamas
And even though ya fed up
With makin’ beds up
Girl, keep ya head up
The love for her baby mama anthem is real. In many ways it was an anti-shaming song for women who aren’t married to their child(ren’s) father(s).
Free yourselves ladies. God knows ‘Tasia tries.
If you don’t want me then don’t talk to me
Go ahead and free yourself
Real relationship talk– that’s Fantasia.
No skin privilege. Little education. Family drama. Bad business and relationship choices. Tattoos. Big lips, a lisp and hair styles that are affordable at any black hair salon.
She wasn’t the chosen one. She is not angelic. Not larger than life. The music industry couldn’t figure out what to do with her so they just let her be. She’s raw, edgy–regular.
We all know a Fantasia.
We all know that sister that needs to turn around her life while managing her turn up. We know that sister whose realness and ratchednes have created her roadblocks.
Mary J. Blige figured it out too. Got herself together and made a solid career that many never saw coming.
It’s been a long road. I believe she’s got the endurance to fly like that bird she lets out in song.
These days it seems Fantasia has managed to get out of her own way (I hope) and find her own happy.