Fantasia Moves Forward Despite Personal Challenges
Fantasia has endured a roller coaster couple of weeks, as the mainstream and tabloid media have veered from one controversy (the singer being named in a divorce case that includes sex tape allegations) to the next (her being hospitalized for a "medical overdose"). But that isn't stopping the former "American Idol" champ from honoring a previously scheduled promotional tour in support of her third album, "Back to Me" (J Records, Aug. 24).
"People think we beefed up all these TV commitments," says Carolyn Williams, senior VP of marketing for RCA Music Group. Williams is referring to a label press release issued earlier detailing release-week appearances on "Good Morning America" (Aug. 24) and "Lopez Tonight" (Aug. 25), plus upcoming guest stints on "106 & Park" (Sept. 8), "Live! With Regis and Kelly" (Sept. 9) and "The Wendy Williams Show" (Sept. 10).
"Her search activity is probably at an all-time high, but these were already on the calendar," Williams says. "There was talk of moving the album release date back, but this was Fantasia's decision. She wanted to move forward, and we support her."
Fantasia-who will also appear at radio personality Steve Harvey's Hoodie Awards in Las Vegas (Aug. 28) and fellow syndicated personality Tom Joyner's Family Reunion (Sept. 4)-will hit the promo circuit next week armed with a third chart-topping single. In the wake of the singer's personal travails, "Bittersweet" jumps 4-1 on Billboard's Adult R&B list, joining previous chart No. 1s "Free Yourself" and "Truth Is." She also brings her top 10 total on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs to four (including former No. 1 "When I See U") as "Bittersweet" holds at No. 10.
Derrick "D.C." Corbett, director of urban programming for Clear Channel in New Orleans, is playing "Bittersweet" in power and subpower (just below power) rotation on urban AC WYLD and mainstream urban WQUE, respectively. "Women love this record," says Corbett, who has heard several other tracks from the album. "I haven't seen backlash from fans here. She's a talent, and I think this project will be around for a while."
Fantasia's first album, 2004's "Free Yourself," has sold 1.8 million, posting first-week sales of 240,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her 2006 self-titled sophomore set has sold 530,000, with 133,000 in first-week sales. Both peaked in the top five on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. "Free Yourself" peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, "Fantasia" at No. 19.
Responding only to questions about the album via e-mail to Billboard, Fantasia says the love- and independence-fueled "Back to Me" has "allowed her to give back exactly what and who everyone fell in love with" during her "Idol" turn.
"It's just me getting 'back to me' by singing songs that are age-appropriate yet showing growth," the singer says, citing "Bittersweet," album track "Collard Greens and Cornbread" ("reflecting my Southern roots") and the motivational bonus track "I'm Here" from musical "The Color Purple" as examples.
RCA's Williams says a second single will be announced in the next weeks. Meanwhile, the Internet is buzzing about "Lucky," a newly leaked track that's not on the final album. Its lyrics revolve around the subject of a love triangle.
Premiering Aug. 17 on Facebook and Amazon, "Back to Me" will garner additional attention when VH1's "Fantasia for Real" begins its second season Sept. 19. The reality show attracted 2.3 million viewers when it debuted last January, averaging 1.2 million per episode, according to Nielsen. "Even Angels," which appears on the new album, was one of several songs showcased during the first season. This season's focus will include the marketing and promotion of the new album.
"An upper hand with this release is the partnering with VH1," Williams says. "The release lines up with the series' premiere-a little different than before. This time around we're in front of the show."