AP Music Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Fantasia is feeling the love -- and says she hasn't felt this good since winning "American Idol" in 2004.
The singer's fourth album, "Side Effects of You," debuted at No. 1 and No. 2 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop and Top 200 albums charts last week. She said the response is both welcome and complicated, especially after her last few tumultuous years.
"It feels really good," she said softly. "You have to be very careful because there was a time when I went from being up here and everybody loved you and then when (that) ole thing happened, it was like, 'OK, everybody ...' -- so it's almost, like, tricky."
Fantasia could be addressing a number of things that have bruised her image. In 2010, police believed they were responding to an attempted suicide after Fantasia overdosed on aspirin and other pills at her home in Charlotte, N.C., but her manager says she wasn't trying to kill herself.
She gave birth to her son, Dallas, in 2011 and was trashed on blogs by people who said she had been in a relationship with a married man. She's battled bad publicity and also endured financial and emotional woes.
But the singer has had her share of positive experiences, too, since becoming an "Idol" champ. She won her first Grammy Award in 2011, has released platinum and gold albums, and starred on Broadway in Oprah Winfrey's "The Color Purple."
The big-voiced singer says she's put the drama behind her and released both her pain and happiness on her new album.
She talked about her music, an upcoming tour with Andrea Bocelli and more in an interview with The Associated Press.
AP: You won "American Idol" at 18 and now you're 28. Do you feel wiser?
Fantasia: I do. I think that me changing some things in my life and not really blaming everybody else anymore, actually sitting back and figuring out what it was that Fantasia was doing wrong, and then actually getting that together. Don't get me wrong, there will be more things to come, I know that. But I think at this point I know how to handle things in a much (more) mature way. In a way, I don't get it much in my mind, my mental, and let it send me into a depression, you know, 'cause there's a lot of things you just cannot change.
AP: What's your goal with this album?
Fantasia: I wanted to just kind of show the world who I am when it comes to being an artist ... just give them me, so I said I wasn't going to do another album until I could do that. I remember it being kind of tough, kind of like a pull because everybody thinks they know what you should do or they want to go with what's hot right now; somebody put out a hot single and everybody thinks you should do songs that sound like that. But I just said, 'No. I know what I want.'
AP: You're looking well. Have you been exercising?
Fantasia: I work out twice a day. If I don't get with (my trainer) twice a day, I'll get with her in the mornings and then I'll go do yoga, Pilates or spinning. I love to do spinning classes. So it's like I have to make that time for me. That's my getaway.
AP: Have you tried Zumba?
Fantasia: I haven't, but my mother keeps trying to get me to go. ... My main focus for when I started working out was ... to be an example for my cousins. I'd go back home and young people are on high blood pressure pills, and I think it's the things we put in our body; it's the food that we eat. We're not watching what we do. I know a lot of people, I sit and I'm like, 'I've never seen you drink water.' ... Water is so important, and I learned that by playing (on) Broadway. I'd always get dehydrated and have to be in the hospital with IVs getting fluids.
AP: You're opening for Andrea Bocelli for five dates this summer. How did that happen?
Fantasia: When my manager came to me about it, I thought he was playing. I thought I was being punked. I was like, 'Whatever.' He's like, 'No, I'm serious!' ... And so I had a teacher to come to the house and work with me because it wasn't easy to learn Italian. But everything that I've done, it wasn't easy. ... And to all those who said, 'I can never do that. I can never do that,' I'm going to do it to prove to them I can do anything I want to do if I put my mind to it. You may say I can't speak English, but I'm going to show you how I'm going to sing this Italian.