Urban Contemporary, 2007
Mandisa, the adorable plus-sized songstress from the fifth season of American Idol, may seem like any other big-voiced diva-wannabe on that show apart from one way: she’s open about the fact that she’s a devout Christian. This very fact got her booted from the show – too early, in my opinion – after she gave her critics ammunition to lynch her in the media as a homophobic person. Maybe one day I will figure out how a show with a fandom that is overrun predominantly by Southern church grannies and their borderline insane daughters and granddaughters can end up crucifying someone for being homophobic – we are talking about the same show where the “fans” made a most racist storm over Fantasia winning her season, after all – but for now, let’s enjoy her debut, True Beauty.
True Beauty is actually more poppy than gospel if you ask me, not that there is anything wrong with it. Think a big and lush pop album by the likes of Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan and you will have a good idea of what True Beauty aspires to be and mostly succeeds. Her cover of Mary Mary’s Shackles (Praise You) can really get pretty loud towards the end, as if she’s in a church and she wants to bring the roof down, heh, but it is actually the least interesting track here. My favorite is the brassy and uplifting Voice of a Savior, although I also adore Unrestrained, a song that is this close to being sacrilegious in how sensual it is for a song supposedly dedicated to Jesus. Seriously, Unrestrained is just sizzling with… er, religious fervor, I suppose, that it’s quite a revelation in a way to listen to this beautiful no-holds-barred ballad. The rest of the songs are all well-produced and catchy in their own right.
Perhaps the only drawback to this fine CD is that the songs are almost clichéd in how they follow the big belting diva formula. But as long as they are so gorgeous on the ears, who am I to make a big fuss about that?