Fantasia Says ‘American Idol’ Needs New Judges

(Photo: Getty Images)

By Kyle Harvey, (Article originally published on

Since winning “American Idol” in 2004, Fantasia Barrino has been one of R&B’s strongest voices and among the most accomplished singers in the genre.

The North Carolina native has put out 4 award-winning albums and has been praised for her role as "Ms. Celie" in the Broadway production of "The Color Purple." With her latest album" Side Effects of You" in stores now, Fantasia chatted withtheGrio about her career and if "Idol" still has star making power.

TheGrio:  What does Side Effects of Yourepresent for you as a veteran singer?

Fantasia: I’m in a great place now. I got in the game at a very young age. In the beginning it’s fabulous, it’s the glitz, it’s the glamour and everyone is happy.

My grandmother used to tell me "to whom much is given, much is required." Everything went so fast with winning American Idol.

Everyone around me was happy and saying, "I love you"…I look around now and none of those people are here now. They left me with a lot of baggage and things that I needed to clear up.

To be at this point now, I'm so proud of myself for making it through. It didn't knock me down; I'm still standing in this game.

TheGrio: Do you feel American Idol still has the star making potential it did when you were coming up 10 years ago?

FB:  Umm I do…I always say you can’t turn somebody into a star; you’re born that way.

Whenever I see somebody hit the stage I can always point them out and say, "Yo that person is special." And when I say special, I mean that is what they are destined to do.

Even when Carrie Underwood was on that year on Idol, I told them, "She's the one, she's special." So I don't think it's up to the judges. They are just vessels to push and promote that person to where God ends up wanting their life.

You were on when it was the classic line up of American Idol judges of Simon, Randy and Paula. Now American Idol has experimented with multiple judges critiquing new contestants. Do you think that plays into them not making stars?

FB: I think a lot of people do a lot of searching and changing to bring up the ratings. And in the beginning of American Idol, they show the funny stuff and the outtakes, but when the show comes to the top 12, it's official. The "sangers" come out.

In my year we had Jennifer Hudson, Latoya London. We had some “sangers” and they should bring it back to that.

Bring in the legends like Gladys Knight, bring Elton John and Aretha Franklin. Bring in someone to sit on that panel with an actual ear and eye to say, “Yo that’s a star” and not just people to bring up ratings.

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What was it like recording “On Without Me” with Missy Elliott and Kelly Rowland?

FB: If I’m ever going through anything or have an idea that might be wack or crazy, I just go to Missy and she brings it out of me.

I got a phone call that pissed me off and I felt a way and told the producer I wanted to make a club banger, kinda ratchet song, because that was the mood I was in.

We went back and forth about who we could get on the track. I decided I need two other women on the song that could relate to me.

Kelly Rowland is just like me, she's not Hollywood. She's nice, she's just like me, we can relate in so many ways. I'm so proud of her. She came back so strong with her music and I feel like we've both been through that. What to do? Where to go? Does anyone believe in me phase.

The fact that she’s a black woman with black features, I had to have her on this feature.

Missy’s like a breath of fresh air. When I heard her on that J. Cole record, that was like a tease and I just had to hear more.

Can you define the term you coined, Rock Soul? What other artists do you believe fall into that category?

Beyonce doesn’t mind going in for a performance. Bilal, Anthony Hamilton, and K-Ci, my first cousin, has that rock soul, soulful kind of voice that takes you there.

When artists are exposed to so many types of genres they are able to go into that rock soul moment. The first person who really did it was Tina Turner. Rock Soul music is the music I really love. Nobody’s really doing it right now, so I wanna take it back and give it [music] that rock soul.

That is like me paying respect to the artists that fed me music.

I was raised on music that still stands to this day. So that's the kind of album I wanted to do. An album that will be epic, a timeless album that you can play 5, 10, 15 years from now.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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