Thanks to high-profile contributors such as Jermaine Dupri and Rodney Jerkins, Free Yourself is bearable, too, but the disc as a whole reveals Fantasia's limitations. Sans visuals, her belting toward the end of songs like "Baby Mama" is thin and ragged -- a hissy fit masquerading as passion. The grab bag of styles doesn't help matters, either: "Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)," a strong contemporary track co-starring Missy Elliott, abuts George Gerswhin's "Summertime," an Idol showstopper that literally brings the CD to a screeching halt.
At least it's livelier than I Need an Angel, a faith-based effort that's unwaveringly smooth. Rather than allow the spirit to take him, as the best gospel practitioners do, Studdard croons the likes of "I Surrender All" with a relaxed steadiness that's pleasant but seldom as inspiring as it should be. It's hard to know why he was recently hospitalized for exhaustion, because on most ditties, he certainly doesn't tire himself out.
Thanks in all likelihood to their inveterate averageness, neither Free nor Angel are in any danger of topping the sales charts. We may finally have reached the point of Idol overload -- at least until the next season starts. Go, laryngitis, go!