But let's forget about Jennifer and let's move on with Mandisa. It's unbelievable that Mandisa hasn't won a Grammy Award though she has been a nominee twice. I think she has lots of potential and she stands out from the crowd of other gospel/Christian singers anyway. Her sound is outstanding! Or that's how I experienced it when I started searching for as great gospel/soul singers as Aretha Franklin to backfill my MP3. Gospel music is of course available in Finland but according to my experience it's difficult to find if you don't know what you're looking for - because of small demand. So last summer I headed to Jango.com and customized my own gospel radio Blessed Bliss FM (my nickname being MissHeart) - and there was Mandisa! Despite those similarities to Jennifer Hudson I think she does her job a lot better: Mandisa's music is more vary than Jennifer's as it's a mixture of r&b and Contemporary Christian Music. That makes her more interesting as an artist. Mandisa's message for self-respect and appreciating inner beauty is much stronger than Jennifer's or of any other Christian artist's: Trin-I-Tee 5:7 refer to self-respect in a couple of their songs and Mary Mary doesn't sing about it but they speak for inner beauty.
I think this is Mandisa's more r&b oriented album. It begins with a joyful r&b jam called Only the World which tells us not to be turned down by our problems and worries, because God is there for us: the worldly problems are nothing compared to that joy that we'll reach in heaven. This song helps me when I'm sad or having a bad day. The next also joyful r&b song is the title song of the album saying that True Beauty comes from the inside not from outside and it praises how God made us beautiful - it also jokes about media's surreal beauty perceptions. The next two songs are stunning Contemporary Christian music and they both flatter Mandisa's strong vocals: God Speaking is a touching piano-oriented song telling how God is present in our lives whatever happens. Voice of a Savior is a song that's having a conversation with its listeners as it tells how people are searching for truth and fulfillment from various places (including drugs, money and ambition) but how the one and only truth lies in the arms of Jesus. Song's lyrics are fabulous and all Mandisa's songs are shining with lyrical talent and every song has a deep meaning.
Another contemporary Christian artist, Matthew West , has helped Mandisa to kick off her impressive career as he participates in writing the lyrics and composing the songs for her with other professionals including Cindy Morgan. Regardless, Mandisa's albums are convincing of their frankness - Mandisa's voice is heard throughout the production as the songs bring out her own spiritual experience and the values she wants to represent. Mandisa namely participates more or less on songwriting and has had a small influence on composing Only You. Love Somebody is a joyful r&b beat which actually could be played on mainstream stations. It also contains a part of rapping. Unrestrained is a praise song in style of Contemporary Christian Music. It's a beautiful slow jam. Mandisa's Shackles (Praise You) is a jazzy r&b cover from its original singers Mary Mary. (Never Gonna) Steal My Joy is CCM and a pretty typical pop song. Oh, My Lord is a testimonial r&b song with an influence straight from Africa's continent and it's one of my favourites in this album. Only You is a praise song on how God makes us happier than anything we have on Earth. He Will Come is a pretty piano piece on God's love upon us and strings accompany the piano in the end of the song. Mandisa's singing is perfect through all album.
My final grade: 9 -
Mandisa's sophomore album Freedom is clearly her stronger effort. My Deliverer is Mandisa's testimony on how God set her free from her food addiction and the lyrics are written the way that I can identify to them. I believe that others can too. This album is strongly CCM and How Much is a beautiful pop song on how God doesn't abandon us whatever we do and how He loves us endlessly. It's my favourite of this album. He Is With You has pretty similar message and this song has a spirit of Adult Contemporary music because of its down-to-earth and quite melancholic bass guitar sounds. Mandisa continues spreading her word on inner beauty with her strong, confident song The Definition of Me that's written to bring confidence for young girls. Not Guilty is once again a song with strings and piano on how we expect we'll end up in Hell but by God's forgiveness we'll end up in heaven. Leave It in the Valley is a joyful song to cheer you up on bad days, convincing you of God's care. Victorious is a country-like guitar song telling how we're stronger and more confident when God is with us. Broken Hallelujah is a song about broken heart and feelings of losing hope and faith but at the same time looking up to God. Freedom Song starts with gospel choir, then it changes into catchy r&b beat and it's one of the pearls of this album. Dance, Dance, Dance is Mandisa's second Mary Mary r&b cover. The last track of the album is a heart-breaking You Wouldn't Cry (Andrew's Song) with bright piano. Mandisa participated composing Freedom Song and Not Guilty.
Final grade: 8,5 because this album keeps repeating the same themes and messages she had in True Beauty. Also her creative control in her work is pretty small but still this album keeps being believably Mandisa and her voice is strong and impressive like before. She also collaborated with the same people like in the debut. Unfortunately the sound of the album wasn't as good anyway. Mandisa still has lots of potential for winning a Grammy one day. Working with the same people and talking about the same issues might be a strength that can turn into weakness. People get fed up with it. This is my opinion but I think that if they gave her more creative control or let her do the whole lot herself she could give her full potential and doors for the Grammy would be open. She also must give up the same themes and issues - even changing her collaborators would make miracles. I suppose these changes would turn her into a Grammy winner. Mandisa's next album What If We Were Real will be released on April 2011 and I put those hopes in it. And now that Christmas is coming it's the best time for checking out her Christmas album It's Christmas which was published in 2007.